Thu, Nov 10, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Messier takes notice of Crosby

PRO HOCKEY Retired legend Mark Messier said that rookie Sidney Crosby is likely to become one of the NHL's best players

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Rico Fata, left, of the Penguins, shoots on goal as goalie Kevin Weekes of the Rangers blocks during first period action at Madison Square Garden in New York on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Down on the ice, the rookie center Sidney Crosby, skating in explosive bursts, seemed to be everywhere. The first period between the Rangers and the Penguins wasn't 10 minutes old Monday night, but peering from on high in a Madison Square Garden luxury suite, Mark Messier had already seen why the 18-year-old Crosby is a marquee phenom.

"He's got power in his skating, which gives him the quickness and the power," Messier said. "It all stems from the power in your legs."

Did Crosby remind him of Wayne Gretzky or himself when they were about the same age with the Edmonton Oilers a quarter of a century ago?

"Very few great players have looked like the other great players," Messier said. "Go back from Mario Lemieux to Wayne to Guy Lafleur to Bobby Orr to Jean Beliveau to Bobby Hull to Gordie Howe to Maurice Richard, they've all been different.

"He's the same way. He's got his own game, his own style, and as he develops, he'll create more of a style. It's not who he looks like, it's who he is."

Just as it wasn't who Mark Messier looked like as a center, it was who he was as the captain of the Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

Just as it could be who Mark Messier eventually is, as a general manager or coach in the National Hockey League, probably with the Rangers.

"The lockout last season made my transition easier," he said, referring to his lifestyle adjustment after having stopped playing 18 months ago, "but I have a strong feeling I am going to be involved in hockey in some capacity, and I'd love to do it here."

As the general manager or as the coach?

"It would be really gratifying both ways, and winning," he said. "It's a natural thing to want to be involved, but it's got to be with the right team in the right city."

No team and no city would be more right for him than the Rangers and New York.

Nobody seems to know when Glen Sather's contract as the Rangers' president and general manager expires; he's in his fifth season. But if these Rangers, who entered Tuesday in first place in the Atlantic Division and begin a six-game road trip in Florida Wednesday night, make the playoffs, and the franchise finally appears on the way up after having missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons, Sather may decide to retire.

If the Rangers needed a new president and general manager, Messier would be an obvious hire for James L. Dolan, the Cablevision chairman and Garden emperor who covets marquee names.

Messier mentioned that "once a month or so" he talks with Sather, who was also his general manager in Edmonton. And Monday night, Dolan stopped by to chat with Messier for several minutes. When Dolan departed, he told Messier that he would stay in touch. Almost on cue, the Garden video screens showed Messier, as lean as ever in a dark suit and his shaved head shining. When the crowd erupted in cheers, he smiled and waved, and the crowd cheered louder.

Messier will always be the unforgettable Ranger, the captain of the 1994 team that, after a 54-year Stanley Cup famine, silenced all those chants of 1940 in hostile rinks.

Messier had come up from his home in Hilton Head, Sout Carolina, for Tuesday's announcement of his fantasy Leadership Camp, opening March 3 at the Rangers' training center in Greenburgh, New York, and concluding March 7 with a Captain's Cup game at the Garden. The camp will be limited to 72 players, ages 21 and over. The cost is US$11,111, a portion benefiting the Tomorrows Children's Fund at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, where the Mark Messier Skyway will be dedicated Dec. 9.

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