Joel Dorcas | April 28th, 2020
Nicknamed the “moose” because of his large frame and presence on the ice, Mark Messier will go down in NHL history as the ultimate team-leader and captain. Many will regard him as one of the best of all-time in any sport. His likeness will be forever referenced to when teams start building Championship Franchises. Let’s throw it back to the ’80s and ’90s and take a closer look at Mark “Moose” Messier.
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Draft: 1979, 2nd round, 48th overall, Edmonton Oilers
NHL Clubs: Edmonton Oilers-12 seasons,1979-1991/ New York Rangers-10 seasons, 1991-1997, 2000-2004/ Vancouver Canucks-3 seasons, 1997-2000
NHL All-Star Appearances: 15
Stanley Cups: 6, Edmonton Oilers-’84,’85,’87,’88,’90/ New York Rangers-’94
League MVP (Hart Trophy): 1989-’90, 1991-’92
Hall of Fame Induction: 2007
Messier was brought along quickly in his development as a player. He was already filled out to 200 pounds at the young age of just 16. During the late 1970s, there was a pro league named the World Hockey Association. Instead of playing College or Junior, Messier signed a pro contract with the Cincinnati Stingers that lasted 47games. Messier didn’t produce very much but the journey to stardom had started.
In just his third season in the NHL, Messier hit the 50 goal benchmark in 1981-’82. This was just a sign of great things to come for Moose and the Oilers organization. The mid to late 80s belonged to Edmonton, they would soon be known as the City of Champions.
The Oilers were co-led by Messier and the greatest player ever, Wayne Gretzky. The supporting cast was pretty good too. Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, and Grant Fuhr were instrumental in capturing four Stanley Cups in five years between 1982 and 1987. Over his tenure with Edmonton, Messier’s playoff performances were ridiculously good. He amassed 215 points in 166 games. He also took home Con Smythe honors(Playoffs MVP) in 1983-’84.
Then came along the remarkable season of 1989-’90. This was the year that the Oilers shocked the World and traded 99 to the Los Angeles Kings. This led many to believe that Edmonton’s tenure as “City of Champions” would end abruptly. What happened instead was pretty remarkable. Messier ramped up his game to another level, as he would record his best season ever: 45 goals, 129 points in 79 games. The Playoffs would be more of the same, the result was a Stanley Cup led completely by Messier. This feat would cement them as one of the best all-time dynasties in the History of the NHL as they brought their Cup total to five, all secured within just a decade. If it weren’t for the heroics of goalie Bill Ranford, Messier’s 31 points and incredible leadership would have easily netted him another Con Smythe.
The Oilers tenure as a dominant force would come to a close around the 1990-’91 season, the team was forced to part ways with their long-running captain in 1991-’92. Messier would take his talents to the “Big Apple” and made an immediate impact scoring 107 points in 79 games, the sixth time he would eclipse 100 points in a season.
Fast forward to the 1994 season. This memorable campaign would go down in New York Ranger History as one of the teams most important. The drought was finally lifted, and for the first time in 54 years, the Rangers were Cup Champions. The organization had many to thank for the accomplishment, but none deserved more than number 11.
Messier will forever be remembered for the game six performance in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers trailed in the series 3-2 and would need a road victory to stave off elimination. Before the game, Messier guaranteed a win, he also scored three goals. It was clear that the Rangers were on to accomplishing something special. They went on to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in seven spirited games. Messier was great again scoring 30 points in 23 playoff games, third-most in the league. 1994 and 1990 would go down as Messier’s greatest seasons, they would go a long way in cementing him as one of the all-time greats.
Messier would briefly join the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons between 1997 and 2000 which didn’t add to too much when compared to the rest of his impressive resume. Messier would later close out his career in 2003-2004 with the Rangers organization at the age of 43.
All toll, Messier played for 25 years in the NHL. He is ninth all-time in goals scored with 694, third all-time in points with 1887 and ranks second all-time in games played with 1756. All of these are great accomplishments, but his best performances would occur in the postseason when the games meant so much more. He has suited up in a fourth-best all-time amount of 236 games. He ranks second all-time in playoff goals and points with 109 and 295 respectively. Rest-assured it will be a long time until a player will come along to rival the unique ability set combined with the top-notch leadership of number 11, Mark Messier.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images