NEW YORK, N.Y. – Mark Messier is leaving the New York Rangers’ organization after being passed over to replace fired head coach John Tortorella.
Messier, who had been a special assistant to Rangers general manager Glen Sather, announced Thursday in a statement that he is resigning in order to “expand the game of hockey in the New York area by developing the Kingsbridge National Ice Center.”
However, he added that the Rangers’ choice to hire veteran coach Alain Vigneault to be the new head coach wasn’t a factor in his departure from the team.
“I would like to thank the New York Rangers and particularly Glen Sather for giving me the opportunity over the last four years to work with the Rangers,” said Messier, who has no NHL coaching experience. “Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth. I completely respect the decision that was made and for all the reasons it was made. I harbour no hard feelings toward Glen or the Rangers.
“This is a personal choice I am making to create a program in the New York area that will give our children more choices and opportunities in the future. I wish the Rangers nothing but the best in the future.”
Messier, who captained the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup championship, hoped to lead the team again—this time from behind the bench—after Tortorella was dismissed. He interviewed with Sather for the position that eventually went to Vigneault, who was let go after the season by the Vancouver Canucks.
“Mark Messier will always be a part of the New York Rangers family,” Sather said in a statement. “As a player and then as part of the management team, he brought incomparable passion and dedication to the organization. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Messier took his position as an assistant to Sather, who also serves as Rangers team president, in August 2009.
A 16-time NHL All-Star, Messier’s crowning achievement with the Rangers came in 1994 when he led the team to its first Stanley Cup title in 54 years. He set a Rangers playoff record with 12 post-season goals, including the Cup winner in Game 7 of the finals against Vancouver.
Messier’s No. 11 was retired by the Rangers in January 2006. The Hockey Hall of Famer ranks fifth on the team’s scoring list with 691 points and seventh in goals with 250 of the 694 he scored in his career. He is second in career NHL points with 1,887 and seventh in goals.
In addition to the championship with the Rangers, Messier won the Stanley Cup five times with the Edmonton Oilers, where Sather served as coach and general manager.
Sather had a list of 13 potential coaching candidates that he cut down to nine. He interviewed Messier and Vigneault in person and decided to go with experience.
“It was a difficult decision,” Sather said last week. “We’ve both grown up with each other. At this stage, A.V. was the man. Mark has got to decide what he wants to do.”