With an Italian cultural background, Mike Ricci was raised with a deep love for soccer, especially when Italy's national team hit the field in World Cup competition. While growing up in the greater Toronto area, he took up the game himself along with some baseball and the Canadian tradition of hockey.
It didn't take long for everyone, including Ricci himself, to realize that hockey was his forte. He joined the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in 1987 and staged a veritable scoring clinic during his three years with the club. In year two, his team made it to the Memorial Cup tournament where Ricci scored 35 points in 17 playoff games. In his final junior season, he was named the Canadian Hockey League's player of the year.
The first round, fourth overall selection of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, a member of Canada's gold medal World Junior team in 1990, Ricci played two seasons in Philly before he was packaged up along with a throng of other players and sent to the Quebec Nordiques to secure the rights to Eric Lindros. With the Nordiques, Ricci finally settled in as a true NHL character. An offensively gifted player, Ricci established a career high 78 points in his first seasaon with Nordiques and quickly became a fan favorite.
Over the years, Ricci's game has evolved away from the finesse style of his junior days towards a more defensive approach although he still spots his share of goals and assists. Ricci joined the Nordiques in their transition to Colorado in 1995, capturing a Stanley Cup later that spring. After parts of six seasons with the Quebec/Colorado franchise, Ricci was traded to the San Jose Sharks during the 1996-97 campaign and went on to play parts of seven seasons with the club. The former OHL star continued to play a game replete with leadership, character, and dogged defense for the club surpassing the 1000 games played mark during the 2003-04 season.
In the summer of 2004, Ricci signed as a free-agent with the Phoenix Coyotes. In his first season as a Coyote, Ricci would appear in 78 games with the club and suffer a serious neck injury. In the off-season Ricci would undergo neck surgery. The following season, his neck injury lingered and as a result the gritty forward would only see action in seven regular season games with the club.
The Coyotes opted not to re-sign Ricci who would announce his retirement after 16 NHL seasons at a charity golf tournament in Peterborough, Ontario.