Mark Messier

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File:SI1996 West Side Story.jpg
In 96-97, Messier would reunite with Gretzky for one final unsuccessful run for the Cup

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.

NHL career

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.

Achievements

  • 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.

Career Statistics

    Regular Season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1976-77 Spruce Grove AJHL 57 27 39 66 91 -- -- -- -- --
1977-78 St. Albert AJHL 54 25 49 74 194 -- -- -- -- --
1977-78 Portland WHL -- -- -- -- -- 7 4 1 5 2
1978-79 St. Albert AJHL 17 15 18 33 64 -- -- -- -- --
1978-79 Indianapolis WHA 5 0 0 0 0 -- -- -- -- --
1978-79 Cincinnati WHA 47 1 10 11 58 -- -- -- -- --
1979-80 Houston CHL 4 0 3 3 4 -- -- -- -- --
1979-80 Edmonton NHL 75 12 21 33 120 3 1 2 3 2
1980-81 Edmonton NHL 72 23 40 63 102 9 2 5 7 13
1981-82 Edmonton NHL 78 50 38 88 119 5 1 2 3 8
1982-83 Edmonton NHL 77 48 58 106 72 15 15 6 21 14
1983-84 Edmonton NHL 73 37 64 101 165 19 8 18 26 19
1984-85 Edmonton NHL 55 23 31 54 57 18 12 13 25 12
1985-86 Edmonton NHL 63 35 49 84 68 10 4 6 10 18
1986-87 Edmonton NHL 77 37 70 107 73 21 12 16 28 16
1987-88 Edmonton NHL 77 37 74 111 103 19 11 23 34 29
1988-89 Edmonton NHL 72 33 61 94 130 7 1 11 12 8
1989-90 Edmonton NHL 79 45 84 129 79 22 9 22 31 20
1990-91 Edmonton NHL 53 12 52 64 34 18 4 11 15 16
1991-92 NY Rangers NHL 79 35 72 107 76 11 7 7 14 6
1992-93 NY Rangers NHL 75 25 66 91 72 -- -- -- -- --
1993-94 NY Rangers NHL 76 26 58 84 76 23 12 18 30 33
1994-95 NY Rangers NHL 46 14 39 53 40 10 3 10 13 8
1995-96 NY Rangers NHL 74 47 52 99 122 11 4 7 11 16
1996-97 NY Rangers NHL 71 36 48 84 88 15 3 9 12 6
1997-98 Vancouver NHL 82 22 38 60 58 -- -- -- -- --
1998-99 Vancouver NHL 59 13 35 48 33 -- -- -- -- --
1999-00 Vancouver NHL 66 17 37 54 30 -- -- -- -- --
2000-01 NY Rangers NHL 82 24 43 67 89 -- -- -- -- --
2001-02 NY Rangers NHL 41 7 16 23 32 -- -- -- -- --
2002-03 NY Rangers NHL 78 18 22 40 30 -- -- -- -- --
2003-04 NY Rangers NHL 76 18 25 43 42 -- -- -- -- --
NHL Totals 1756 694 1193 1887 1910 236 109 186 295 244

See also

References

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