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Recchi Begins B's Olympic Odyssey

The Veteran NHLer carried the Olympic torch in his hometown.

Thursday, 01.28.2010 / 9:00 AM ET / Vancouver 2010
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Recchi Begins B\'s Olympic Odyssey
By GREGG DRINNAN
Kamloops Daily News Sports Editor
Special to BostonBruins.com

Recchi carries the Olympic torch into the community celebration in his hometown of Kamloops in front of 12,000 cheering spectators (photo: Keith Anderson/Kamloops Daily News).
Kamloops, British Columbia -- Mark Recchi, now a member of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, put on a lot of  miles this week.

But the Kamloops native said Wednesday night that it was more than worth it. Oh, was it ever!

“Oh, gosh, yes!” Recchi said, still basking in the glow of having  used the Olympic torch to light the Community Cauldron before a Hillside Stadium crowd estimated at 12,000 people.

“That was like a Game 7 . . . no question,” continued Recchi, who has won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina  Hurricanes.

“It’s a different feel but it’s that same energy.”

Recchi, who turns 42 Monday, said the experience was “amazing.”

“It really was,” he said. “It was even better than I  thought it was going to be.”

Recchi used the torch to light the cauldron after accepting flame from a torch carried by fellow Olympian Nancy Greene Raine.

“Nancy came up the stairs . . . we touched torches . . . it was  amazing,” said Recchi, his voice fairly crackling with excitementsome two hours after the fact.

A native of Kamloops, Recchi said he was thrilled to see a lot of familiar faces as he passed through the crowd.

“I walked through everybody and it was...was good,” he said, adding that he was trying to follow the script   but found it to be a most emotional experience. “I’m trying to be slow, just remember everything . . . trying to see the people. I saw  a lot of people I know.

“I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have this honour.”

Recchi’s parents, Ruth and Mel, still call Kamloops home but are in Arizona so weren’t able to attend.

Mark played his minor hockey here and later spent two seasons with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. He went on to a wonderful NHL career — he played his first game in 1988 — and has said this will probably be his final season.

He ranks among the NHL’s all-time greats in games played, goals, assists and points, and is a guaranteed Hockey Hall of Famer once he retires from the game and becomes eligible for induction.

His NHL career also had included stints with the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

In 2000, Recchi was honoured as Kamloops’ athlete of the century. The street that runs in front of Interior Savings Centre bears his name — Mark Recchi Way.

Recchi now is one of the Blazers’ five owners and, in fact, he spent part of yesterday afternoon watching the club’s practice and chatting with players at Interior Savings Centre.

In 1998, Recchi experienced the thrill of playing for Team Canada at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

Asked about his memories of those Games, he doesn’t mention anything  that happened on the ice. Rather, he talks of the athletes’ village.

”The village . . . it was the coolest thing,” he recalled. “It was the first time that pro hockey players were allowed [to compete in the Games]. The amateurs were a little standoffish to us at first. We were professional athletes and they thought we were going to come in and be high-and-mighty.

“But we thought it was just the coolest thing. We came in and, after three or four days, we were all hanging out together. We were in the commons room, sharing stories. It’s special what they do...they’re amateurs.”

Recchi had two assists in five games at the 1998 Olympics. Canada ended up finishing in fourth place after losing the third-place game 3-2 to Finland.

On Tuesday evening, Recchi had caught a flight from Boston to Seattle and then to Kelowna, arriving in the Little Apple just before midnight. His brother, Matt, the Blazers’ director of player personnel, picked him up and brought him home.

The two started the return trip this morning at 3 o’clock. Mark had to catch a 6 o’clock flight to Toronto, from where he had arranged a ride to Buffalo.

It will be back to the grind of the NHL schedule on Friday when the Bruins play the Sabres.

However, the thrill of Wednesday night when he lit the Olympic cauldron in his hometown will always be with him.

With edits by BostonBruins.com

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