The New York Islanders - along with every other NHL team and many other businesses - have temporarily suspended operations due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control and World Health Organizations have strongly advised the public to practice self-quarantining and avoid close contact and crowds to limit the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean we can’t gather in a virtual space and talk about old hockey players.
As long as the Islanders are on pause, we’ll run this series to give folks a place to chat, reminisce, and generally relieve the stress of the times.
Krog’s name is only one letter removed from Korg, the Kronan character that dates back to the early Silver Age Journey into Mystery comics that spawned the God of Thunder, Thor. You may also remember Korg from Thor: Ragnarok, where he was voiced and acted by the film’s big goofball of a director, Taika Waititi. Korg...er, Krog was a happy accident, though, since I didn’t even know Marvel Week was a thing until Tuesday.
So I wanted the next Islander of the Day to have a more overt Marvel connection. And after scanning the list of every player in team history (seriously), I found the perfect candidate: Joel Rechlicz.
A native of Brookfield, Wisconsin, the 6’-4” Rechlicz (pronounced wreck-lidge) had a well-traveled junior career, playing a handful of games for the Des Moines Buccaneers and the Indiana Ice of the USHL, the Gatineau Olympiques and the Chicago Hounds of the UHL. For each of those teams, his job was simple: fight. No matter how few games he played, he racked up the PIMs. In his one full season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL in 2006-07, he piled up 159 PIMs in 55 games and picked up just one (1) assist the whole time.
Rechlicz even came with a ready-made nickname: “The Wrecker.”
He spilt 2007-08 between Albany of the AHL and Utah of the IHL and had over 200 PIMs between the two. The next season, he signed a three-year ELC with the Islanders with Garth Snow saying he had been on the team’s radar for a while as someone who could provide, “toughness and energy.”
After spending most of the season with Bridgeport, he made his NHL debut in March of 2009. His first NHL fight was this one against then-Canadiens tough guy Tom Kostopoulos.
The rest of that playoff-free season for the Islanders was a rampage for The Wrecker. He got into seven more scuffles with various enforcers around the league including The Kingpin himself, John Scott. Warning: This is not fun to watch if you’re rooting for Rechlicz.
That stretch also saw him take on Georges Laraque, Zenon Konopka, John Erskine and, uh, Mike Fisher? Anyway, this is him versus Flyers goon Riley Cote.
Rechlicz played an NHL career-high 17 games that first season and piled up 68 penalty minutes. He also had an assist on this Blake Comeau goal against the Rangers. It would stand as Rechlicz’s only point in the NHL.
Rechlicz made the Islanders roster out of training camp ahead of the 2009-10 season, but was sent to Bridgeport after just a few games. Thing was, the Sound Tigers already had Micheal Haley, Trevor Gillies, Pascal Morency (not to mention Matt Martin) ready to rumble, so the Wrecker found himself as the low man on the Islanders’ tough guy totem pole. Yet he still put up 128 PIMs in 21 games for Bridgeport.
In July of 2010, the Islanders placed Rechlicz on unconditional waivers for the purposes of terminating his contract. No reason was given but it was probably because The Wrecker just wanted a better chance to play in the NHL. He signed as a free agent with Hershey of the AHL that summer, then in January of 2012, was signed by the Bears’ parent club, the Washington Capitals. He played three games for the Caps, the final NHL appearances of his career.
He bounced around for a few years, signing with the Coyotes in 2012, then getting traded back to the Caps in early 2013. He signed with the Wild in 2014 but once again never saw time outside of the AHL. His final two teams were both in the A: Grand Rapids in 2015-16 and Bakersfield in 2016-17. After that, Rechlicz officially retired.
So what does Joel “The Wrecker” Rechlicz have to do with Marvel Comics?
Enter, “The Wrecker!”
The leader of the superpowered villain gang known as The Wrecking Crew, The Wrecker has enhanced strength and wields a magical, near indestructible crowbar imbued by the powers of Asgard (it’s a long story, just go with it) that functions much like Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. Along with his cohorts Thunderball, Bulldozer and Pilldriver, The Wrecker has been battling Thor and his super friends since 1968. And, of course, they always lose.
The Wrecking Crew are the kind of guys who were expected to be recurring villains in the early days of Marvel, but became just too hokey as the comics became more sophisticated. Eventually, they would just show up as someone else’s henchmen (like Loki or Baron Zemo) while that villain attacked Thor, The Avengers and even Alpha Flight (aka “Canadian X-Men”).
But the idea of a bunch of construction-themed supervillains with magical demo equipment is just too much fun to keep away for too long. So they come back time and again, get their asses kicked, disappear for a while, then do it all over again.
And that’s it, True Believers. Wrecker versus Wrecker! Hands of Stone versus Magical Crowbar! Hockey enforcer versus hokey enforcer!
Oh, wait. There’s one more Islanders connection with The Wrecker (the Marvel one, not Joel Rechlicz): The Wrecker’s real name is Dirk Garthwaite, making him perfect candidate to be the Islanders GM and head coach sometime around 2037.