Forgotten Carolina Hurricanes: Mark Recchi

Most players drafted into the NHL dream of making a career with one team, but for most, that isn’t the case. When fans think of long-time Carolina Hurricanes players, they think of Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Glen Wesley, and Rod Brind’Amour — the latter two had their numbers retired by the franchise. And all of these players had brief stints with other franchises in their careers, even if it was for one season. 

These four watched many players come and go over the years; some stayed for several seasons, while others wore the red sweater for a short time. In this series, we look back at those players whose short stint with the club may have been forgotten.

Forgotten Carolina Hurricanes Mark Recchi
Mark Recchi (The Hockey Writers)

In the fifth installment of Forgotten Carolina Hurricanes, we’ll look at a player who is best known for his time with Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Even though he spent a short amount of time with the Hurricanes, he helped the team win their first Cup. This player would be none other than Hockey Hall of Fame member Mark Recchi. 

The Early Years

Mark Louis Recchi was born in Kamloops, British Columbia, on February 1, 1968, to Mel and Ruth Recchi, and had three brothers: Marty, Mike, and Matt. The brothers bounced around between hockey, baseball, and football, but for Mark, it was hockey that stuck.  

His hockey career began with the Langley Eagles of the British Columbia Hockey League, and he quickly moved into the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the 1984-85 season. He started off with the New Westminster Bruins, where he spent two seasons before moving over to his hometown Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. At the end of his last season with the Blazers, he was drafted 67th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.  

Recchi didn’t immediately start playing for the Penguins. For the first two years of his career, he split time between the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League and the Penguins. His rookie season came in 1989-90 and saw him total 30 goals and 37 assists in 74 games, putting him second amongst rookies that season. In his second season with the Penguins, he had one of his best NHL seasons. During the regular season, Recchi led the team with 40 goals and 73 points and continued that streak into the playoffs, where he had 10 goals and 24 assists. During that season, he’d do something many players spend their entire careers trying to achieve: he and the Penguins would win the Stanley Cup. 

Not So Sunny in Philadelphia 

Recchi’s life would change on Feb. 19, 1992, when the Penguins traded him, Brian Benning, and a first-round draft pick in the 1992 Entry Draft to the Philadelphia Flyers for Kjell Samuelsson, Rick Tocchet, and Ken Wregget. It was a trade that would work out in the favour of the former Flyers, as they each got their names forever etched on the Stanley Cup. But for Recchi, his summer break started early, with the Flyers ending the season at the bottom of the Patrick Division and missing the playoffs. 

Mark Recchi Philadelphia Flyers
Mark Recchi of the Philadelphia Flyers, 2004. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Even though the 1992-93 season saw Recchi having his best NHL season with 53 goals and 70 assists in 84 games, the Flyers would fail to make the playoffs. Yet, that feat is still the single-season point-scoring record for the Flyers.

The following season saw Recchi being a star on the team again with 40 goals and 67 assists in 84 games. But the playoffs would once again be out of reach until the Flyers traded him to the Montreal Canadiens on March 10, 1995, where he would see the playoffs once again.

Recchi would stay with the Canadiens until the 1998-99 season, where he appeared in the playoffs in three different seasons, though he would continually get knocked out within the first two rounds. It would seem that he was meant to stay in Pennsylvania because on March 10, 1999, he was traded back to the Flyers and would see the Stanley Cup Final once again. 

Over the next six seasons with the Flyers, Recchi and the team would see the playoffs every season. In the 1999-00 season, the Flyers would make it to the Eastern Conference Final, losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils, who would go on to win the Stanley Cup.

The next three seasons saw the Flyers getting knocked out before the Eastern Conference Final. In his final season as a Flyer, history would repeat itself, with the Flyers losing in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who, like the Devils, would go on to win the Stanley Cup. 

Recchi’s Second Chances With Stanley 

After the 2004-05 lockout season, Recchi went back to where it all started and returned to Pittsburgh. His time in the city would be brief, as the Penguins sent him to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 9, 2006. While the 1991-92 trade saw Recchi not getting his second Cup, the 2006 trade would work in his favour. The Penguins finished that season at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and ended up drafting future Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal with the second overall pick at the draft. For the Hurricanes, their 2006 season ended differently. For the first time in franchise history, with the help of Recchi’s seven goals and nine playoff assists, they lifted the Stanley Cup.

Mark Recchi Carolina Hurricanes
Mark Recchi, Carolina Hurricanes(Courtesy Carolina Hurricanes Media Archives)

In the offseason, he re-signed with the Penguins once again. The 2006-07 season brought Recchi 24 goals and 44 assists in 82 games and four assists in five playoff games. But the next season would change everything. Nineteen games into the 2007-08 campaign, he had scored just two goals and six assists when the Penguins began to scratch him before finally placing him on waivers in December 2007.  It was then-coach Michel Therrien’s idea to give younger players the nod over the veteran who was turning 40 that February.

“We believe we gave him an opportunity. It didn’t work out.” 

-Michel Therrien

On Dec. 4, 2007, the Penguins placed him on waivers with the idea that he would be claimed. On Dec. 7, 2007, they put him on re-entry waivers, where the Atlanta Thrashers would claim him. He finished out his contract with the Thrashers and became a free agent. 

Third Time’s the Charm 

As a free agent, Recchi signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they too would trade him to Boston Bruins, where he would finish his career. In his last three NHL seasons, Recchi and the Bruins would reach the playoffs every year. On March 1, 2009, at the age of 41, he became the oldest player to record five assists in a game. During the 2010 playoffs, he became the third-oldest player to score a playoff goal and the oldest player to have a multi-goal game in the playoffs. 

After losing to his former Flyers during the 2010 playoffs, Recchi decided to give the NHL one more year, a decision he would not regret. In November of that year, he would score his 1,500th career point, and in May 2011, the Bruins would defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning to get them to the Stanley Cup Finals. At the age of 43, he became the oldest player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.

On June 15, 2011, after seven games, the Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since the 1971-72 season, and 20 after winning his first Cup with the Penguins, Mark Recchi would lift the Cup for the third time. In a post-game interview, Recchi announced his retirement from the NHL, becoming the last player from the 1980s to play in the NHL. 

Recchi’s Not Done Yet 

After his retirement, Recchi spent the 2013-14 season as a senior advisor for the Dallas Stars before the Penguins added Recchi to their coaching staff, bringing in the former player on as a player development coach. The Penguins were set on reliving their back-to-back Cups in the 90s, except this time, Recchi would be around for both of them. In his role as a coach, he was part of the team when they won the Cups in 2016 and 2017. The following season, he got a promotion to Director of Player Development. 

Mark Recchi Pittsburgh Penguins
Mark Recchi, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Rick Tocchet may have taken over Recchi’s place after he was traded to the Penguins in 1992, it would be Recchi who would take over Tocchet’s role as an assistant coach in 2017, as Tocchet became the head coach of the Arizona Coyotes. Recchi would stay in that position until the end of the 2020 season when the Penguins did not renew his contract. In September of that year, Recchi was hired by the Devils as an assistant coach, a position he still holds today. 

Related: Devils’ Power Play Will Improve Under Recchi

In his 22-year NHL career, Recchi played in 1,652 games and totaled 577 goals, 956 assists, 1,533 points. He appeared in seven All-Star Games and finished with three Stanley Cup Championships, as well as 189 Stanley Cup Playoff games, where he scored 61 goals and 86 assists for 147 points. 

Recchi will always be remembered for his on-ice ability and will always hold a special place in the hearts of the teams that he played with over the years. Even though he wasn’t a Hurricane for long, he was part of one of the most memorable seasons in Hurricanes history, and for that reason, will always hold a special place in the hearts of fans.