Messier heads impressive list of players up for Hockey Hall of Fame selection

Messier heads a formidable group of players who are eligible for the first time, including Ron Francis, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Adam Oates, Igor Larionov and Claude Lemieux.

Four is the usual maximum in any one year so the committee will have a tough task paring the list. There is no doubt, however, that Messier will quickly be tabbed for November induction into the hockey shrine.

For 25 years until his retirement three years ago, Messier carved an incredible NHL career. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Messier were the big three of their era.

Messier’s combination of power, skill and speed reminded hockey oldtimers of Gordie Howe. He was an awesome sight as he flashed down the ice. Pity the checker who got in his way. Opponents knew better than to mess with Mess, or Moose as he was sometimes referred to by teammates.

There was always a look of fierce determination in his eyes and former Oilers coach Glen Sather once put it in perspective.

“They talk about Maurice Richard,” Sather said. “Well, Mark has the same look.”

He’s 46 now and would love to get back into the big league in a managerial role, but first he’ll be feted for his on-ice accomplishments. He was one of the greatest leaders in NHL history, and he did it all after being a third-round draft pick, 48th overall.

Mark John Douglas Messier of St. Albert, Alta., turned pro when he was only 17, spending a year in the World Hockey Association before it was absorbed into the NHL. He earned six Stanley Cup rings beginning in Edmonton in 1984, when he was named playoff MVP. He’d win four more titles with the Oilers, capping the run in 1990 two years after pal Gretzky had been dealt to Los Angeles.

He won the Hart Trophy as regular-season MVP and the Pearson Award as the outstanding player in the eyes of his peers in 1989-1990, at the end of his second-last season with the Oilers, and again in 1991-1992, his first season with the New York Rangers.

When the six-foot-one centre led the Rangers to the championship in 1993-94, ending a 54-year NHL title drought, he became the first player to captain two different franchises to Stanley Cup glory.

In all, he played 1,756 regular-season NHL games, scoring 694 goals and assisting on 1,193 for 1,887 points. He also was assessed 1,910 penalty minutes. On the all-time lists, he is seventh in goals, third in assists and second in points. Gretzky was the only player in league history to amass more points.

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Messier was routinely at his best in the playoffs. In 236 post-season games, he produced 109 goals and 186 assists for 295 points – he’s No. 2 in the record book, behind only Gretzky, on all three counts – and he was assessed 244 penalty minutes. He holds the record for most short-handed playoff goals (14).

Messier appeared in 15 all-star games.

He helped Canada win the Canada Cup tournaments of 1984, 1987 – it was in that one that his role as a leader was driven home – and 1991. He also captained the 1996 World Cup team. The only snub of his career was in 1998 when he was left off Canada’s Olympic team.

Messier spent three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks in the late ’90s before returning to the Rangers to complete his career. He settled in Hilton Head, S.C., afterwards.

On Jan. 12, 2006, the Rangers held a ceremony to honour Messier before a game against the Oilers and raised his No. 11 high above the ice in Madison Square Garden.

In November 2006, the NHL created the Mark Messier Trophy, a monthly leadership award.

On Feb. 27, 2007, his number also was retired by the Oilers at Rexall Place. Fittingly, Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes were in town, and Messier glided onto the ice in full uniform carrying the Stanley Cup.

Messier’s son Lyon, 19, played defence last season for the Texas Tornado in an American junior league.

He and fiancee Kim Clark have two children. Douglas Paul will be four in July while Jacqueline Jean turns two in August.

Messier, as gregarious off the ice as he was serious on it, had the lead role in a popular commercial that was aired during the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. He has also worked as a studio analyst during NHL games on U.S. cable television.

A rink in St. Albert bears his name while a section of northbound road between Edmonton and suburb of St. Albert was renamed to Mark Messier Trail last February.

A plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame will soon bear his name and image, too.