BOSTON - The Boston Bruins thought they knew what they were getting when they traded for Mark Recchi during the 2009 stretch run.
A prolific playmaker. A gifted puck-handler. A veteran leader whose experience would help calm his younger teammates in the playoffs. What they didn't expect from Recchi, who turned 43 last month: a youthful outlook that has infected the Boston roster with energy.
"At the age he's at, the way he's performing is pretty incredible," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Recchi moved into 12th place on the NHL's career scoring list. "He brings some wisdom in the dressing room, but he also brings some enthusiasm. He's young at heart, and players sense that."
The oldest active player in the NHL, Recchi scored his 1,532nd career point in a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night to surpass Paul Coffey on the all-time list. Everyone ahead of Recchi—Bruins great Ray Bourque is 11th with 1,579—is either in the Hall of Fame or not yet eligible.
"It's big names that he's passing there, and it's crazy how many points it is," said Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron, who seemed even more excited than Recchi when the milestone was reached. "I'm just happy to be on the ice with him and to have a chance to enjoy something like that. ... He's obviously going to be a Hall of Famer, and I feel blessed that I have a chance to be with him and learn from him."
Originally a fourth-round draft pick by the Penguins way back in 1988, Recchi is a seven-time all-star whose 576 goals put him 19th all-time and 956 assists have him 13th. He is fifth—it'll be fourth before the season is up—with 1,647 games played, and the leader among active players.
"It's double-plus what I thought I was going to play," Recchi said Tuesday night, still wearing the 1970s-era windbreaker given to the Bruins' star of the game. "I thought I would be lucky to play 10 years, and I would have been very fortunate to play 10 years. And here I am 22 years later, and I'm still having fun and still enjoying myself.
"I wasn't even supposed to make it, never mind do this stuff. I was a 19-year-old draft pick, and small back then," said Recchi, who is now listed as five foot 10 and 195 pounds. "They drafted monsters back then, no matter what. I had to work hard to get there, and I had some people who believed in me as well."
Recchi won the Stanley Cup in 1991 with Pittsburgh, his third season, and again with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, his 17th. In Boston, he has been lining up not only with twentysomethings like Bergeron or David Krejci, but also 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
"(Bergeron) has been a big help to me since I've been here, he's kept me young and kept me going," Recchi said. "It's been fun, it's been fun with all these guys, they've made it really enjoyable for me. And hopefully we can continue this thing for along time."
And the feeling's mutual.
"Even though he's been playing for 22 years, it's amazing the way that he gets ready for games and practices," said Bergeron, who's 25. "He's always bringing his A-game and his 100 per cent effort, and it's something that I want to duplicate. And it's amazing, the way he prepares and on and off the ice, his leadership. All that stuff, I'm learning a lot from."
The Bruins were tied for the best record in the NHL when they acquired him at the 2009 trading deadline to add a little experience for the playoffs. Boston lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals that year, and again last season despite opening a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Recchi decided to give it at least one more try last summer, re-signing with the Bruins for one year and a chance to get his name on the Cup one more time.
"I'm hoping we go on a long ride, it just makes it real easy for me to say, 'See you later,'" he said Tuesday night. "If we win a championship, I'm gone."
"Then we'll see. We'll see if I can recover," Recchi said. "(I'll) take three weeks, a month, see if my body and my head is ready to get back in the grind physically doing the stuff I need to do to get ready for next year."