Tracers: Mess in ’79

In 1979 fall, Mark Messier (in photo) was one of the stories Edmonton Oiler fans were following. It was an off ice story–he was one of 5 players who didn’t show up for rookie camp in mid-September.

The story goes like this:

The Kisio item is a footnote in history, but the Oilers could have used him; Kisio was a fine NHL player in the 1980’s. Messier’s reason for not showing up was a contract, or lack of one. Slats had offered him two contracts by mid-September but the young man said no both times.

Messier eventually got his contract, but was a wild young man who–despite enormous ability–found walking the straight and narrow a difficult thing. Eventually, Glen Sather sent him to the minors, the story is here

Legend has it the young Messier had a blast in Houston (as luck would have it, the "backwater" minor league city was anything but) and how much it humbled young 11 is still open to debate these long years later. Either way, Messier returned to the big club but things were only a little better by the time Terry Jones delivered a "D" in his mid-December report card.

In the 79-80 season, Messier scored 12 goals but it was obvious that he was going to be something special. A unique skill set–size, speed, determination, a mean streak, a wicked shot from the off wing–his skill set was as close to Gordie Howe as my generation is likely to see in our lifetime.

Mark Messier improved with lightning speed, reflected by his EV goal scoring totals in his first three NHL seasons. 10 one year, 19 the next and then 40 the year he turned 21. Amazing.

This team hasn’t had that swagger since the day Messier was traded to the Rangers. I think this generation of Oilers youth has some of that same swagger–certainly Taylor Hall does–and one day soon the Oilers will be a team to be reckoned with for other NHL teams.

This season will see more additions from the department of youth. Can’t wait.