Canadian hockey player
Mark Messier is considered by many to be one of the greatest leaders in sports. He served as the captain of three National Hockey League (NHL) teams: the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks. Messier won Stanley Cups with both Edmonton and New York. The centerman had a long-lived career, playing into his forties.
Messier was born on January 18, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of Douglas and Mary-Jean Messier. His father was a minor league hockey player who later was a coach. Messier had an older brother Paul who was also a hockey player who played professionally with the Colorado Rockies.
Messier began playing hockey when he was five years old, and served as stick boy for his father's junior tier II team as a kid. Messier himself began playing junior hockey when he was fifteen, and became serious about hockey soon after. He quit high school in 12th grade to concentrate on the sport.
Began Professional Career
In 1978, Messier began his professional career with a five-game tryout with the Indianapolis Racers in the World Hockey Association, the upstart league that was competing with the NHL. The Racers folded, so Messier joined the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers in the 1978-79 season. He played in forty-seven games, garnering more penalty minutes (58) than points (11—only one was a goal).
Drafted by Edmonton
Messier's career began to take off when he joined the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL in 1979. The team, primarily because of coach and general manager Glen Sather, drafted him in the 1979 entry draft in the second round with the 48th pick. Messier's numbers improved immediately from the previous season, scoring twelve goals and twenty-one assists in seventy-five games.
Soon, Messier had a reputation as a goal scorer, though this was often overshadowed by his more famous goal scoring teammate Wayne Gretzky . In the 1981-82 season, Messier scored 50 goals and 38 assists, and the
team made playoffs. In 1983, team went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with Messier contributing fifteen playoff goals. Until the 1983-84 season he was primarily a left wing, then shifted to center. In 1984, Edmonton won the Stanley Cup, and Messier was named the playoff MVP. His reputation as a clutch player and leader in the locker room was cemented in this time period.
The Oilers won the Stanley Cup three more times in this decade, in 1985, 1987, and 1988. Gretzky played with Oilers until 1988 when he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. When Gretzky was traded, Messier was named captain and became team's official leader. In the 1980s, Messier was recognized as one of the best players in hockey. Then teammate Kevin Lowe told Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated, "You have to go back to Gordie Howe to find someone who can dominate every aspect of the game—puckhandling, checking, skating—the way Mark can, although I'm not sure Howe was as fast as Mark."
Messier and the Oilers won another Cup in 1990. This was the same year that he won Hart Trophy as league's most valuable player and the Lester B. Pearson Award (most valuable player as voted on by the players). He followed up this triumphant year with a relatively bad season in 1990-91 because a knee injury limited him to fifty-three games.
|1961||Born January 18 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada|
|1978-79||Begins professional career playing with the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association|
|1979||Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers; begins playing for the team|
|1982||Plays in All-Star game|
|1984-85, 1987-88, 1990||Wins Stanley Cup with the Oilers|
|1991||In October, traded to the New York Rangers|
|1993||Founds the Mark Messier Point Club (a fundraising group for children's charity)|
|1994||Wins Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers|
|1997||Signs with the Vancouver Canucks in the off-season|
|1998||Plays in the All-Star game|
|2000||Signs with the New York Rangers|
Traded to New York
After the 1991 season ended, Messier's contract had expired and he held out for more money at the beginning of the 1991-92 season. He asked to be traded, and wanted to go to New York, a city that fit his flamboyant personality. Messier was traded to New York Rangers in October 1991. He was named team captain as soon as the trade was complete.
Messier became a star in New York, the media capital of the world. He played well in 1991-92, scoring thirty-five goals and seventy-two assists. He won another Hart Trophy and Pearson Award in 1992. Messier then signed a five-year deal worth $13 million. While he made his teammates better, Messier did clash with management. He had conflicts with Roger Neilson, who was the coach of the Rangers at the time. This led to Neilson being fired in 1993.
Won Cup in New York
The Rangers had not won the Stanley Cup since 1940, and put together many mediocre teams. With Messier as captain, the team won the Cup in 1994. In the finals, Messier scored the Cup-winning goal in game seven after guaranteeing a victory in game six by scoring a hat trick. With this victory, Messier became the first to be captain for two Stanley Cup winning teams.
For the 1996-97 season, Messier got to play with Gretzky again when the latter signed with the Rangers in the off-season. However Messier's contract was up at the end of the 1996-97 season, but Rangers did not resign him, in part, it was speculated, because he was power hungry. He was offered a one-year deal, but Messier declined to take it.
Signed with Vancouver
In the 1997, Messier instead signed a three-year deal worth $20 million with the Vancouver Canucks. In Vancouver, he was again the team's captain and continued to play at high level, reaching many career milestones, including scoring his 600th goal. But the team struggled, never making the playoffs during his tenure.
When his contract was up in Vancouver, Messier returned to the Rangers, who now had former Edmonton general manager Sather as their general manager. The captaincy was returned to him. Though New York still struggled and did not make the playoffs, Messier was a leader on a problematic team. He continued to play past his 41st birthday, though he had injury problems that limited the number of games he played in. He planned on playing until he was 43, if his body held out.
In describing Messier as a leader, Charles McGrath wrote in the New York Times Magazine, "Messier is an authentically commanding figure who by force of his smoldering, dominating personality inspires—or scares—others into surpassing themselves. He leads by example, but also, when necessary, by hectoring, cajoling and preaching, and at times by stony, unforgiving silence. …"
|Edmonton: Edmonton Oilers (NHL); New York: New York Rangers (NHL); Vancouver: Vancouver Canucks (NHL).|
Address: c/o New York Rangers, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10121.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1982||All-Star (first team); played in All-Star game|
|1983||All-Star (first team)|
|1984-85||Won Stanley Cup with the Oilers;|
|1984, 1987-88, 1990||Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP|
|1990||All-Star (first team)|
|1990, 1992||Hart Trophy as league MVP|
|1990, 1992||Lester B. Pearson Award as league MVP as voted on by the players|
|1994||Won Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers|
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Sketch by A. Petruso