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New York Rangers Fan Club

North Of The Border
by Arien Hughes

Tuesday, June 8 2004


Mark Messier: Through Myth and Legend

A warrior entered the the National Hockey League in 1979 and would eventually mature into a conquering general. His combination of skill and grit, rarely seen before, certainly has not been witnessed since. He was selfless and steadfastly focused on the ultimate goal of team success. Routinely sacrificing his own statistics for the good of the team, Mark Messier emerged as the truest and most indispensable leader on a young brash Edmonton Oilers squad.

An astonishing array of talent lay at the disposal of the coach and all that he knew was funneled into those young men. They grew so quickly that they came to dominate the NHL at an age where otherís were barely noticeable among the aging giants of the game. The backbone of the team and the primary focus of coach, Glen Sather, was a raw and unbridled Messier. In him, Sather would find all the elements that he could help forge into one of the greatest players.

Through twenty five seasons, longevity surpassed only once by the indomitable Gordie Howe, Mark Messier has stood as the pinnacle of professional hockey. The most complete player to enter a league that would quickly become a place of specialization. During those years, players could find a place on a team by being capable at one aspect of the game, with little regard to the other facets of play. A man could be a scorer, a play maker, pugilist, or defensive specialist but not have to worry about his deficiencies elsewhere because undoubtedly there would be another to compensate for his failing.

Never had the game of hockey been so fractured. During the era of fewer than ten teams,  a player had to be good at everything or he could find himself replaced. Few besides Messier could have survived, perhaps even thrived, in such a competitive atmosphere. His sole focus was to win, not for himself, but for the team. So engrossing was this drive, that Mark Messier remained an active player long after others had fallen to the way side. He retires the last remnant of the defunct WHA, the final piece of an Oilers dynasty (the last dynasty of hockey), and the bookend player of his draft class.

While no longer the talent he once was, the statistics he has accumulated throughout his career are staggering, overshadowed by only one other man fittingly his friend and former team mate Wayne Gretzky, 1756 Games Played, 694 Goals, 1193 Assists, and 1887 Points. All stand in the upper echelon of the NHL Record Book and even as his ability began to erode, long after lesser players began to decline, Mark Messier remained a valuable player on the ice. He scored consistently and was a testament to the conditioning of the modern athlete.

He was ineffective as a leader in his final seven seasons as his teams failed to qualify for the post season, but more than that the player became overshadowed by the myth. While playing, most didnít see Mark Messier 43 year old, they saw Mark Messier motivator of men and, arguably, the greatest leader in hockey. There was a breakdown in the structure that maintains hockey teams. Coaches didnít use him as the player he was, he couldnít acknowledge that he no longer had the ability to do what he wanted on the ice, and franchises suffered for it. There was no one on Earth with the right to dictate to Mark Messier when it was his time to retire, it is his decision alone and he earned that right. But his career may now be ending on a sad note, made worse by his encompassing desire to make things right yet seeing his team slide further and further into disaster. 

Mark Messierís life as a hockey player will not be rivaled for a very long time. His failures will never overshadow the moments of ecstasy heís helped bring to the cities of Edmonton and New York. And if he does indeed elect to retire, he will pass into history, a mixture of the cocky youngster that entered and the weathered and worn Captain who exits the National Hockey League. Some will resent his time, others will celebrate it, but no one can deny the impact that Messier had on the game and the teamís he played for. March 31, 2004 is a date when the game of hockey said goodbye to a true great.

Thank-you, Mark.

 Additional stories from this Author:

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August 19th, 2021

Earlier this year the Rangers won by a margin of nine goals as they beat the Flyers 9-0. How many times has the margin been bigger?

Answer...
  STANDINGS
  Team GP W L OT Pts  
  Panthers 82 58 18 6 122  
  Hurricanes 82 54 20 8 116  
  Maple Leafs 82 54 21 7 115  
  Rangers 82 52 24 6 110  
  Lightning 82 51 23 8 110  
  Penguins 82 46 25 11 103  
  Bruins 82 51 26 5 107  
  Capitals 82 44 26 12 100  
  Islanders 82 37 35 10 84  
  Blue Jackets 82 37 38 7 81  
  Sabres 82 32 39 11 75  
  Red Wings 82 32 40 10 74  
  Senators 82 33 42 7 73  
  Devils 82 27 46 9 63  
  Flyers 82 25 46 11 61  
  Canadiens 82 22 49 11 55  
FULL STANDINGS
  RANDOM RANGER

ALEX SHIBICKY
(1935-1946)
  Born: May 19 - 1914  
  Position: Right Wing  
  Games Played: 324  
  Goals: 109  
  Assists: 92  
  Points: 201  
  Penalty Minutes: 161  

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