Volume 92, Issue 89
Wednesday, March 18, 1999
Rucchin's purple and proud in the NHL
©V.J. Lovero/Courtesy Anaheim Mighty Ducks
DUCKS AREN'T QUITE AS TOUGH AS MUSTANGS. Former Mustang Steve Rucchin has made a huge splash since leaving Western as centre for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
By John Dinner
First a Mustang and currently a Mighty Duck, London native Steve Rucchin has not taken the traditional path to the National Hockey League.
In 1990, after having played high school hockey for Banting High School in London, Rucchin was recruited to Western at the advice of his high school head coach Todd Sargeant, who also happened to be an assistant coach with the Mustangs.
"Todd told us that we had to see what he considered to be the best high school player in Ontario," Barry Martinelli said Mustang head coach at the time. "It was like watching a man play with boys. He was the only high school player that we recruited with a guarantee of a spot on the roster."
In his first year with the Mustangs, Rucchin made an immediate impact, getting 29 points in 34 games. He followed that up with his Mustang career high of 62 points in 37 games, "and the rest as they say, is history," Martinelli said.
That history includes a brief tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs before being picked up by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks where he has become a mainstay at centre, mostly between two of the National Hockey League's greatest forwards, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.
Despite his NHL success, Rucchin looks back on his time at Western with fondness and realizes his position is unique when compared to most NHL players.
"I really cherish those years. They really are the best times of your life," Rucchin said. "Most of the guys I play with now never had the opportunity to go to university so I consider myself pretty fortunate.
"Those were some of the best years, I had a lot of fun playing with the guys. I still have a lot of friends from those teams. They were great teams real close. It was lots of fun, all us playing for the same goal."
Rucchin also credits his university education with his ability to adapt and succeed on the professional level.
"When you're a student athlete you really have to stay focused, making sure school and sports remain balanced," the six-foot-three 210-pound centre said. "It helped me when I came into the league, going from a full-time student athlete to full-time athlete. I think I was better prepared for the demands."
That preparation has allowed Rucchin to continue to improve every year in the NHL and was scoring at a rate of a point per game pace when he went down with injury (23 goals, 37 assists in 66 games).
Rucchin, however, still isn't satisfied with what he has achieved, believing his best years are still to come.
"I'm only 27 years old and I don't have a lot of hockey history," Rucchin said, referring to the fact that for him, hockey was never a passion like it is for so many other Canadians, until he got to Western. "There's still a lot of room for improvement and I still have a few years ahead of me."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999