Mark Douglas John Messier (born January 18, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta) is a retired ice hockey center in the National Hockey League, who spent over a quarter of a century (including the lock out '04-05 season) in the NHL (1979-2005) with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks, having also played professionally with the World Hockey Association's Indianapolis Racers and Cincinnati Stingers. Nicknamed 'Moose', Messier is one of the fiercest, most determined, intense, and emotional leaders the sports world has ever seen, establishing a larger-than-life persona for himself with jaw-dropping clutch performances. He holds the distinction of being the only man ever to captain two different franchises to Stanley Cup championships; he won six championships in total.
Even though Messier ranks 2nd on the All-Time Regular Season Scoring List with 1,887 points (694 goals and 1,193 assists), his greatness will always be measured in terms of playoff achievements (as opposed to regular season statistics). In Game 3 of the 1984 Finals, for example, with his Edmonton Oilers trailing the mighty New York Islanders by a goal, Messier ignited a comeback by beating an opposing defenseman one-on-one and then burning the goalie with a wicked wristshot to the short side. By series' end, it was he and not Wayne Gretzky who won Playoff MVP honors.
Messier was already known as a hockey superstar, but the birth of the Messier legend came in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. A game away from elimination, Messier confronted the New York media and publicly guaranteed a Game 6 victory. Knowing full well the implications of his remarks, he backed up his promise by scoring a natural hat trick (three consecutive goals) in the third period, which helped the Rangers erase a two-goal deficit. The Rangers went on to win the series and the Stanley Cup (with Messier scoring the Cup winning goal in game 7)--their first in 54 years--and effectively put New Yorkers in a frenzy in the process. From that moment on, Messier was indelibly etched in sports history.
The 1994 Stanley Cup would mark the high water mark of the second half of Messier's career. Despite the lockout in the 1994-95 season, Messier notched a solid 64 points in 53 games. In 1995-96, Messier came as close as he had since 1991-92 to breaking the 100-point plateau when, at the age of 35, he recorded a 99-point season. An 84-point year the next season made it clear that the Moose was far from washed up, and encouraged the Vancouver Canucks to sign the 36-year old to a high-priced free agent contract. It was a high-profile move, with Messier returning to Canada after six years with the Rangers, but the honeymoon did not last. Sixty points in 1997-98 was his worst mark in a full year since his first NHL season, and Messier's next two seasons were shortened by injury. He finished his career as a Canuck with 162 points over three years, and, having become unpopular with Canucks fans, he left at the end of the 1999-2000 season.
After his tenure with the Canucks, Messier had already established himself as one of the greatest to ever lace on skates. Still, he returned to Broadway to try and lead the under-achieving and overpaid Rangers back to glory.
Messier's 67-point season as a 40-year old in 2000-01 was a mark better than any he established in his Vancouver years, and showed that he was still a solid player despite lacking a supporting cast. But after missing half of 2001-02, Messier recorded only 23 points, and finished up next year with a mediocre 40-point campaign.
The 2003-04 season was widely expected to be Messier's last, and he did much to support that conclusion. On November 11, 2003 against the Dallas Stars, Messier scored a pair of goals to vault past Gordie Howe into second on the all-time scoring list. Eleven days later, Messier was the only active player to play in the legends game at Edmonton's Heritage Classic, suiting up with the Oiler alumni and causing many light-hearted comments about being Edmonton's "ringer". During his last game at Madison Square Garden, Messier received applause every time he touched the puck and, after the game, received a standing ovation while he skated around the Garden and bowed to every section of the stands. At the age of 43, most media outlets believed Messier had decided to quit. The NHL lockout that eliminated the next season only drove a nail into the coffin. All speculation would end on September 12, 2005, when he announced his retirement.
Messier retired eleven games back of Gordie Howe's NHL record 1767 regular season games played, a record now considered unbreakable. Messier holds the record for most NHL regular season and playoff season games played at 1992. Gordie Howe played in 1924. Messier is one of a handful of players to play 25 NHL seasons over four decades.
Hockey flowed in Messier's blood. Father Doug, who never made the NHL himself, was his coach and mentor in the early years, including his years of junior hockey with the Spruce Grove Mets, later the St. Albert Saints. Mark's brother Paul was a center for the now-defunct Colorado Rockies; cousins Mitch and Joby also skated for NHL clubs.
He has a son, Lyon, by ex-girlfriend and former model Leslie Young, who is developing into a solid young hockey player. His current girlfriend, Kim Clark, gave Mark his second son, Douglas Paul, on July 15, 2003 and is due with his third child in late 2005.
Said former defenseman Ric Nattress, "Big. Strong. Fast. Great shot. Physical. Mean. Durable. Great leader. What else could you possibly ask for in any individual? Twenty years ago when he broke into this league, Mark Messier was the prototype for a franchise player. And he'll continue to be the prototype. Today, tomorrow and a hundred years from now."
Almost thirty years after having played with the Saints, Messier remains a minor legend in the city of St. Albert, Alberta. One of the rinks in the local Campbell Arena bears Messier's name.
- Won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1984.
- Won the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1990 and 1992.
- Won the Hart Trophy in 1990 and 1992.
- Named a First Team All-Star in 1982 (at left wing), 1983 (at left wing), 1990 and 1992 (both at center).
- Named a Second Team All-Star in 1984 (at left wing).
- One of the few NHL players named a season ending All-Star at more than one position.
- Played in fifteen NHL All-Star Games in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2004, exceeded only by Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque and Wayne Gretzky.
- The last active World Hockey Association player.
- Gordie Howe
- Wayne Gretzky
- Edmonton Oilers
- New York Rangers
- Vancouver Canucks
- Stanley Cup
- List of NHL statistical leaders
- List of NHL seasons
- Power forward (ice hockey)