Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What a Mess!

Mark Messier retired from hockey this week after 25 years in the NHL. He leaves the sport with 6 Stanley Cup championships to his credit and a level of play that few have rivaled. He ends his career as the number two man in games played and points. More importantly, he steps down with his position as one of the greatest leaders in sports history.

Messier joined forces with Wayne Gretzky to win four cups with the Edmonton Oilers. Then, after Gretzky was traded, he took the Oilers to another cup that no one could have predicted. Finally, he did what many thought would never be possible; he brought a Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers.

The chants of "1940" ended with Mark Messier. After 54 years of disappointment, Messier brought the cup to New York. For that, he will always be remembered as "The Captain" in this area and few who are not Rangers' fans can appreciate his place. People who root for the New York Rangers are a unique bunch. The best comparison might be Chicago Cubs' fans. The fans here are diehards, completely loyal and unbelievably passionate for their team. Madison Square Garden rocks like few others places and there is nothing to match a "Let's Go Rangers" chant during the playoffs. When Mark Messier guaranteed victory against the New Jersey Devils in the semi-finals, it was his Herculean effort that insured he kept his promise. The victory that followed over the Vancouver Canucks was as sweet as can be for Rangers' fans and Messier celebrated as one of us.

Mark Messier was a gifted goal scorer, best known for his patented goals from the right wing while lifting his leg behind him and snapping a shot past the goaltender. He was a fierce checker and had blazing speed. Perhaps what he is best known for is his willfulness and leadership. You could measure the determination in his glare and he could carry a team through his unceasing desire.

Mark Messier will never be forgotten in New York and his place as the man who brought the Rangers the Stanley Cup will hold mythic remembrances for many years. Goodbye and thank you, Mess.

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