Mark Messier 2

Messier On The Edge Of History

by Arien Hughes

A man stands on the precipice of the game. Before him, stands the future and the irrefutable fact that he no longer has one as an active player. Behind him, a career the breadth of which few could imagine that is filled with accolades and achievements that even fewer could dream of personally accomplishing. That man is Mark Messier and soon he will no longer be part of the National Hockey League; a place he’s called home for twenty- five seasons where he’s been brash, cocky, vicious, dominate, and feared but above it all, he’s been revered by both friend and foe.

Many say that his time is past and that is certainly true, however, a hockey player is more than his current season as he is an embodiment of an entire career. Thus, a dismal present can never overshadow a glorious past and any resolute fan should never discount a performer of great caliber. Mark Messier, beyond doubt, is the greatest player in the game today and, while no longer the best at what he does, is certainly a treasure of hockey that is rarely seen. In all his years, no one has played as completely as him. There were others who’ve been faster, stronger, and blessed with a more dazzling offensive skill, but no single player has been so total a package of all those attributes since Gordie Howe. Back in 1979, no one expected much from Mark Messier except, of course, Messier himself. He’s stood as the one constant through great change in the NHL. Six teams have relocated, nine more have come into existence, and countless players have been drafted and fallen by the wayside. In fact, he’s outlasted all but nine from his and the four subsequent draft classes. So when people say that Mark Messier is no longer the player he once was, it should be noted that no other man has shown himself to be the player that Messier once was either.

Beyond the longevity of his career, fittingly surpassed only by Howe’s twenty-six seasons, is the numbers. Statistics are the life blood of professional sport and Messier’s, in many respects, are staggering. 1690 games played, 680 goals, 1169 assists, 1849 total points, and a +/- rating of positive 209, those alone are enough to cement his status but it is other numbers that have made him a legend. 2 Hart trophies in an era dominated by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, 6 Stanley Cup Rings (over the course of eleven seasons), 1990 and 1994 where his single game performance in each of those year’s Conference Finals spurred the respective team onto ultimate glory.

There will be a an enormous vacancy left with the passing of Mark Messier from the National Hockey League’s arenas, one not soon to be refilled. Time, a foe long fought off and kept at bay, has finally caught up to him ( long after others would have succumbed to it) and he is a shell of the player who steam rolled his opposition in the 1980’s and 90’s, but he is still Mark Messier and that alone should grant him the right to end his career on his own terms. It should be irrelevant if they are forged through arrogance, pride, or simple love of the game he’s played since childhood because there will never again be a Mark Messier and that absence will be far more tangible than any ill will felt for his still playing today.

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