Some players strive their entire careers to win a Stanley Cup championship and are never able to lay claim to hockey's top prize. Bill Gadsby, a 20-year NHL Hall of Famer, comes quickly to mind. So does Harry Howell, who toiled 21 seasons and never got the opportunity to sip champagne from the brim of the Stanley Cup.
|It was a long time between Stanley Cup wins for Mark Recchi -- 15 years to be exact. After collecting a Cup as a Penguin in 1991, Mark fought hard with various teams, but it wasn't until Carolina in 2006 that Recchi could hoist the cherished chalice one more time. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Mark Recchi was more fortunate. He won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991, his third NHL season. But it took a long journey over 15 more seasons for Recchi to lay claim to the Stanley Cup again. And even then, it was a most circuitous route.
After winning the Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991, Mark was traded to Philadelphia in the midst of the 1991-92 season. From there, his career path included Montreal, a second stint with the Flyers, then, in 2005-06, a return to the Penguins. Recchi was enjoying another strong season, scoring 24 goals and 33 assists by the three-quarter mark of last season, when, on March 9, he was sent to the Carolina Hurricanes, desperate for help in the wake of Erik Cole's injury, for Niklas Nordgren, Krystofer Kolanos and a second round draft pick in 2007. "His playoff experience will provide added leadership for our team as we look forward to the post-season," Carolina's GM, Jim Rutherford, said at the time.
How right he was!
Adding Mark Recchi to a talented line-up mixed with youth and experience was the elixir needed, and the Hurricanes, of course, went on to capture the elusive Stanley Cup.
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"I only got the Cup for four hours in '91," smirked Recchi. "This will be my first real celebration with the Cup."
At 2:15PM on Monday, August 7, the Stanley Cup landed in Kamloops, British Columbia, after returning from a whirlwind
tour of Europe. Mark Recchi had great plans for the Cup, and started by driving it over to Tru-Market Auto Sales and
Leasing, after promising his friend Reid that he would stop by.
After a short stay, Mark took the Stanley Cup to his family's home, where his father Mel, mother Ruth, brothers Marty, Mike and Matt, as well as his wife Alexa and children Christina, Cameron and Austin, waited anxiously.
They weren't home long before it was time for a photo opportunity at the Interior Savings Centre, the home of the Major Junior A Kamloops Blazers, a team Mark played with in 1986-87 and 1987-88. Mark created such a legacy, specifically in his last year of junior, scoring 61 goals, a league-best 93 assists and 154 points, that he was named Kamloops Male Athlete of the Century in 2000! The roadway in front of the arena is named in his honour. With a mounted patrol escorting him, Mark Recchi lifted the Stanley Cup over his head beneath a street sign reading Mark Recchi Way.
|With the beautiful B.C. skyline creating a dramatic backdrop, veteran
Mark Recchi enjoys a day of celebration back home in Kamloops.
Mark then took the Cup to his brother Marty's house. The house was the scene of a monstrous family meal of steak, baked
potatoes, salads and wine. The Recchi family relaxed in Marty's backyard until three in the morning with the Stanley
Tuesday, August 8 saw Mark and the Cup return to the Interior Savings Centre at 11AM. He was preceded by 3,500 fans, waiting to see 'local boy makes good' and the Stanley Cup he promised to bring home. The lineup stretched through the arena and, appropriately, all the way up Mark Recchi Way. What was intended to be a two-hour signing lasted twice as long, and from 11 until 3, Mark posed for photos, signed autographs and met most of Kamloops. Just before 3, Mark realized that not everyone was going to get the opportunity to see the Stanley Cup, so he left his perch, carried the Cup down the line and gave folks the chance to see the Cup up close and take a picture as he went by.
After leaving the arena, Mark was guest of honour at a backyard party at his parents' home. More than 100 family members and friends enjoyed spring rolls, dry ribs, dumplings, wings and fruit in the presence of the Stanley Cup. Teammates Andrew Ladd and Mike Commodore popped in too, in town a day early for Mark's golf tournament.
That evening, the boys took the Stanley Cup to Players, a Kamloops bar owned by NHLers Darryl Sydor and Steve Passmore. Fans milled about, getting the chance to see the Stanley Cup in person. Then, at 3AM, Mark took the Cup one block over to The Thirsty Dog, another bar owned by an NHL star. Geoff Smith, who had played junior with the Kamloops Blazers, toiled in the NHL with Edmonton, Florida and the Rangers through his career. "Thanks for remembering me and The Thirsty Dog, Recch," exclaimed Smith, who knew the Stanley Cup was in Kamloops, but was nevertheless astonished to see Lord Stanley's Mug in his club, where it stayed until six that morning.
|Mark Recchi took the Stanley Cup to Sport Mart Place, the home of his former junior team, the Kamloops Blazers. The street that runs in front of the rink has a distinctively familiar ring -- Mark Recchi Way was
named in his honour in 2000 after he was named the Kamloops Male Athlete of the Century!
Mark, along with another Blazers' alumnus, Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes, hosted a charity golf tournament on Wednesday, August 9 at the Dunes at Kamloops, a golf course acknowledged as one of the most beautiful but most challenging in the province. The tourney raises money for various Kamloops charities, with specific emphasis on supporting the children's ward of Kamloops General Hospital.
Since the Cup was only available for part of the day, Mark ensured that each of the sponsors, and as many of the golfers as possible, got a picture with the Stanley Cup. But Mark was hesitating he knew the Stanley Cup had to head off to Thunder Bay, Ontario for Eric Staal's day, but Recchi was doing some 'staal-ing' himself. "Just hang in for a couple more minutes, okay?" The phone rang. It was Mark's Dad. "He's landed," came the message. The next call was equally cryptic: "He's just 8 kilometres away."
At last, the penny dropped. Bobby Orr, arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, was driven into the golf course's lot. A mob surged around the defenseman, who was gently guided through the crowd to Mark with the Stanley Cup. "Thanks a million for coming, Bobby," greeted Mark. Orr replied, "How're you doing anyway, you old pisser?" Both guys laughed and embraced. A quick photo and then the Stanley Cup was rushed to the airport.
"When I was with Pittsburgh, we were playing in the old Boston Garden," explained Mark. "After the game, Bobby came down to the dressing room and told me he enjoyed watching me play! What a thrill! Bobby was one of my idols when I was growing up. Hell, I couldn't believe he even knew who I was!!"
The Stanley Cup was late arriving at the airport, and there was great fear that it would miss the flight. Like a game of dominoes, if a flight is missed or delayed, it throws off the entire itinerary of the next player who is to receive it, so there is little room for error. But somehow, luck was with the Stanley Cup even more than usual. The plane itself was late leaving, so there was time to load the Cup on the plane for a trip that would jackrabbit from Kamloops to Calgary to Winnipeg and then to Thunder Bay and the arms of Eric Staal, who was next to receive Lord Stanley's Cup. And you'll read all about the days enjoyed by Staal and then Cole, Eric and Erik, on Tuesday in the Stanley Cup Journal.
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Kevin Shea, along with co-author J.Jason Wilson, is author of 'Lord Stanley-The Man
Behind the Cup,' to be published in October 2006 by H.B. Fenn and Company./DIV>