Sat, Sep 17, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Messier hangs up skates

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE A 16-time All-Star, Mark Messier, who finished with 694 career goals, was awarded the Hart Trophy, the NHL's MVP, in 1990 and 1992

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , GREENBURGH, NEW YORK

Edmonton Oilers' captain Mark Messier holds up the Stanley Cup trophy after the Oilers beat the Boston Bruins in this May 1990 file photo. Messier retired Monday, ending a 25-year career in which he won six Stanley Cup championships.

PHOTO: AP

When Mark Messier announced his retirement earlier this after playing 25 seasons in the NHL, he said he had no thoughts of regrets.

Well, except for the failure of the Rangers to earn a playoff berth for the past seven seasons.

If there was one reason to come back for a swan song, the 44-year-old Messier said during a conference call on Monday, "That would have been the one. That's something that's always going to be a disappointment for me. But I think there are so many good things that happened in the playoffs previous to that, that it will diminish those feelings."

Such as the six Stanley Cups Messier won, the first five coming with the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty from 1984-1990, before Messier helped the Rangers' end a 54-year-old drought in 1994.

Messier's Hall of Fame credentials were well cemented even before he was first traded to the Rangers before the 1991-1992 season.

A 16-time All-Star, Messier, who finished with 694 career goals, was awarded the Hart Trophy, signifying the NHL's most valuable player, in 1989-1990 and 1991-1992. In 1984, Messier was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, signifying the most valuable player of the playoffs, as he helped lead the Oilers to their first Cup over an Islanders' dynasty that had won four consecutive Cups.

Messier's 1,887 career regular-season points are second all-time to his longtime teammate, Wayne Gretzky. Messier's 1,193 career regular-season assists are third only to Gretzky and Ron Francis.

With 1,756 career games played, Messier -- who helped redefine the center position with his deadly combination of size, talent and raw emotion -- is second to only Gordie Howe, who Messier would have tied by playing just 11 more games. Messier, who would have also tied Howe by playing a 26th season, is hockey's all-time leader in most games played including the playoffs, at 1,992.

Messier has long been regarded by many as one of sport's greatest leaders. In time, Messier's jutting jaw and scowl became a part of New York's sporting iconography, much like the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty.

"He was the best player I ever played with," the game's greatest player, Gretzky, said in a statement released by the Phoenix Coyotes, with whom Gretzky is the managing partner and new head coach. Messier and Gretzky won four Cups together in Edmonton.

The last Cup that Messier won, however, will likely be remembered as the crowning point of his career. That was the year Messier guaranteed the Rangers would win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at New Jersey with the Rangers on the brink of elimination. Messier backed up his guarantee with a third-period hat trick, as the Rangers came back from a two-goal deficit to win.

The Rangers then defeated the Devils in double overtime in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden in one of hockey's greatest games to advance to the finals, where they outlasted the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.

"Every day, even today, you hear about it from fans," Messier said of the 1994 season. "I knew the magnitude of it the first year I was in New York.

"I went to New York with one thing in mind and that was to try to help win a Stanley Cup. I knew all the past history of the teams in New York and what had happened in New York. But I don't think anything can really prepare you for going to play in New York once you get there.

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