NATION PROFILE: MARK MESSIER

Lowetide
October 09 2012 01:15PM

(The Nation Network plans to set out a long series of historical posts, detailing the best known players and teams from each club's era. Lowetide's profile of Mark Messier is the first step down that long road.)

Mark Messier embodied the heart, soul, skill and physical presence that made up the Boys on the Bus. He was loud and proud, youthful and exuberant, creative and skilled, filthy. Oh. And he played on winning teams. A lot.

BEFORE THE DRAFT

PRE-DRAFT STATISTICS
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1976-77 Spruce Grove AJHL 57 27 39 66 91
1977-78 St. Albert AJHL 54 25 49 74 194
1978-79 St. Albert AJHL 17 15 18 33 64
  Indianapolis WHA 5 0 0 0 0
  Cincinnati WHA 47 1 10 11 58

stats courtesy hockeydraftcentral

Mark Messier was the son of Doug Messier, the former Edmonton Flyer and later a school teacher and hockey coach in St. Albert. Mark had played tier 2 junior with the Mets of Spruce Grove, just west of the city. His one glimpse of major junior hockey came during a 7-game playoff with the Portland Winter Hawks (WHL) in the spring of 1978. Messier had grown up in Portland while his father played for the Buckaroos after the Edmonton Flyers folded. From there, the 17-year old graduated directly to the pro ranks when he was signed to a 10-game tryout by the Indianapolis Racers after they lost Wayne Gretzky to Edmonton.  (source: The Glory Barons, Douglas Hunter).

Glen Sather was impressed by Mark Messier as he played AGAINST the Oilers in the 78-79 season (WHA). Dennis Sobchuk was a pretty good player and legend has it he thought he could take the kid in the Cincinnati Stinger uniform. Messier apparently had a slight edge in punches. 12-0. Sather noticed and picked him 48th overall in the deepest draft in history, 1979.

EARLY CAREER

Messier began the 1979-80 season with the Oilers, and showed flashes of the player he would become; however, Messier was also young, inconsistent and impatient and his early Oiler career included several battles with authority. At the end of October '79, Glen Sather sent the emerging powerforward to the minors for disciplinary reasons. He had missed the team flight to St. Louis earlier in the week, marking the third time that season "Mess" was outside the guidelines. "If Mark has to go to Houston to learn how to tell time, well that's where he's going" said Sather at the time. His rookie season (and early career) saw him play some center but mostly LW, and in his first season Messier played portside on Stan Weir's line. 

By the summer of 1982, Messier was acknowledged as being an outstanding NHL player. In June 1982, Messier was named to the season ending 1st all star team. "I'm very surprised with the selection" Messier said at the time "It's the first time I've been comfortable for 80 games and my production showed it."  

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

  • His first NHL game was also first in history of Edmonton Oilers NHL franchise and first in Wayne Gretzky's NHL career.
  • Member of Oilers "Boys On the Bus" team, a storied group that wreaked havoc on the NHL for a decade. His pivotal goal in G3 of 1984 SCF ranks with the most important goals in the team's history.
  • Became a full-time center for Edmonton's Feb. 15, 1984, game vs. Winnipeg after having played left wing for the first four years of his NHL career.
  • Won Conn Smythe, 1984.
  • Suspended 10 games by NHL for cracking Jamie Macoun's cheekbone in a fight during Edmonton's Dec. 26, 1984, game at Calgary. Messier was retaliating for having been boarded by Macoun earlier in the game, but the NHL ruled that he had instigated the fight. During this period, Messier tortured the Flames and drove Calgary coach Bob Johnson to distraction. Messier in an Oiler uniform was as close to Gordie Howe as the expansion generation can get, and oldtimers suggest (strongly) Messier was a much dirtier hockey player than Gordie.
  • Expressed anger at Edmonton's trading of Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles on Aug. 9, 1988. He threatened to protest the trade by playing in Europe during 1988-89 season, but finally reported to training camp on Sept. 8, 1988.
  • Won the Hart Trophy, 1990 and led the Oilers to their 5th Stanley cup.

THE GREATEST GAME, IN CHICAGO

 THE SHOT

In the spring of 1987, Detroit goaltender attempted to describe Messier as a shooter.

  • "Messier overpowered me on the first one. He's amazing. His feet are still moving and he still shoots the puck the way he does. He's got the hardest wrist shot in the NHL. He's got a little curve on the end of his stick where he scoops the puck. You can't pick it up right away. When he's on his game, he's awesome."

TRADE

  • Edmonton traded Messier and future considerations to N.Y. Rangers in exchange for Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk on October 4, 1991. The future considerations were fulfilled when Edmonton sent Jeff Beukeboom to N.Y. Rangers in exchange for David Shaw on November 12, 1991. The Oilers never recovered from the double whammy of the Gretzky sale and the Messier trade.

LEGACY

  • An exceptional leader and a champion, Mark Messier combined natural talent and drive into an extraordinary career that saw him play 25 seasons in the National Hockey League as well as one in the World Hockey Association. Widely recognized as one of the greatest players ever to play the game, at the time of his retirement, Messier was second on the NHL's list in career games played, second in regular season points and second in playoff points. Mark is the only professional athlete to have captained two different teams to championships, having led the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup in 1990 and the New York Rangers to the Cup in 1994. (courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame).

In the classic book "The Game of Our Lives" Peter Gzowski attempted to sum up Messier's role on the young Oilers who would have such an enormous impact on this city and the game of hockey.

  • Gzowski: Number 11 is Mark Messier. Of all the factors that have turned the Oilers around in the last few weeks--from the trades to the midnight raids in Hartford--none have been more important than Mark's decision to apply himself. The wreckless abandon of the early months has now turned into a controlled fury on the ice, and in many games he has been the Oilers most exciting player. He kills penalties and adds zest to the powerplay. No one knows for sure what has turned Messier around, although it appears more than coincidence that he began his new dedicated approach about the time his cousin Don Murdoch was banished to the minors. So many of the other youngsters take their moves from him that there are those who believe he will one day be captain of the Oilers.

 

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#1 hammers
October 09 2012, 03:21PM
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Some including me think he was the heart of the oilers . I'm hoping Hall can bring that for this modern group.

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#2 FastOil
October 09 2012, 05:19PM
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If anyone has ever had intangibles, it was certainly Messier. A wonderful, scary, dominant, consistently productive player.

Well productive at least by season totals. I sure remember some unproductive Oiler games. At least he understood entertainment and might decapitate someone in lieu of effort.

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#3 Spydyr
October 09 2012, 01:30PM
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A 11 Fist is the best fist

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#4 book¡e
October 09 2012, 02:14PM
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I look forward to DSF slamming Messier and noting how the 1980 Oilers are weak in just about every position including goal and that if they want success, they should build like Montreal or the NYI.

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#5 RexLibris
October 09 2012, 02:35PM
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Goosebumps and knots in the stomach at the same time. I had to turn off the video clip once we got to the Rangers. That memory is still too fresh.

An excellent article, LT, and I look forward to the rest. Maybe an especially long one on Tikkanen for our friends down the QE2. They were always big fans of his.

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#6 Reg Dunlop
October 09 2012, 03:50PM
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Most important moment in Mess' career was the trade of Don 'Snort' Murdoch, even though Mark found rock n roll party companions in Anderson, Fuhr and Linseman.

First time Messier showed his potential for destruction was a stick fight with Larry Robinson in the 81 playoffs.

Most devastating elbow tossed by Mark; a tie between Kovin, who is still recuperating, and Berezan , who was a flame and therefore deserved it.

The signature move for Messier had to be the wrist shot, off wing, off the back foot. Unstoppable.

Saddest Messier memory has to be the lack of respect he shows the oil whenever he gushes about how great it was to win a cup in NY.

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#7 Quicksilver ballet
October 09 2012, 05:17PM
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@Reg Dunlop

Spun that shaft around so the blade would've struck Robinson first.

What do you think Messier would've done if Larry had dropped his gloves?

Have to think with them being so young, Mess would have soiled himself and hung onto that stick for all he's worth.....good times. Can't remember if that was gm 1 or 2.

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#8 Harlie
October 09 2012, 05:49PM
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Moose + Tron = GOLD

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#9 ralph_u
October 09 2012, 08:44PM
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Great article and video. I think Adam Graves called him the best leader in pro sports. I dunno but legendary anyways.

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#10 AutoOiler
October 10 2012, 12:39AM
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Weren't there 11 former oilers on that 94 ranger team. Oh what could have been for the Oilers.

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#11 @Oilanderp
October 10 2012, 12:47AM
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This just in: Messier was uhhh... good... and uhhh... stuff. Pronger was traded. Lockouts are dumb.

Here's Jacqueline with the weather.

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#12 D
October 10 2012, 01:13AM
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Great article LT and great memories! I had the honour of attending Messier's retirement ceremony in New York when I lived there and must say, he is revered in New York in the same category as some of that city's other greatest athletes. Something tells me that if Messier found out what was going down with management in the late spring and summer of 1988, he would have stopped the Gretzky trade.

Thanks for posting these Boys on the Bus articles. Looking forward to reading all of them. Once heard a rumour that the Boys on the Bus had a really good Norris Trophy defenceman on their team - but I'm not entirely sure...

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#13 Cheap Shot Charlie
October 10 2012, 11:57AM
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book¡e wrote:

I look forward to DSF slamming Messier and noting how the 1980 Oilers are weak in just about every position including goal and that if they want success, they should build like Montreal or the NYI.

It's true. The crappy 80's oilers only won the cup 5 years out of 7. Whereas, the Florida panthers and Vancouver Canucks won the cup...I'll need to get back to you on that.

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#14 Cheap Shot Charlie
October 10 2012, 12:00PM
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My search results came back as "inconclusive".

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#15 Bushed
October 10 2012, 08:04PM
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Mess had an early rep for being mean, crazy and unpredictable; he'd just as likely try to take your head off with a stick as look at you, even when he didn't have "the look" on.

I recall a home game vs Leafs that was kind of slow and boring, as the boys weren't "up" for the game and were going through the motions.

Toronto had dressed some huge new rookie, who had taken a few runs at various Oilers in the first and early second, and was gaining confidence. About halfway through the second, the kid was coming through centre ice and looked back to his D for an expected pass. Mess went past with his elbow up at shoulder height, dropped the guy, then skated straight to the penalty box and sat down.

They took the kid off on a stretcher, and I never heard of him again. Mess' shoulder hardly moved on the elbow, and he looked bored in the box after the fact.

Message delivered. Different game after that. No response from anyone on the Leafs. Not a vintage game, but typical Messier. Scary.

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