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Thursday, November 20, 2003
Updated: November 21, 8:32 PM ET
Messier wants to thank Edmonton

ESPN.com news services

DENVER -- Mark Messier has received the go-ahead from the New York Rangers to play in the Heritage Classic alumni game in Edmonton. And Rangers coach and general manager Glen Sather gave the final OK on Thursday night after his team's 4-3 loss to Colorado.

"He's going and I'm going with him," said Sather, who will be behind the Edmonton old-timers' bench.

Messier said earlier Thursday he was "pretty optimistic" about playing, but said Sather had to work out details with the NHL, including questions about Messier's contract if he were to be injured in the game.

The game -- the first outdoors in NHL history -- features Oilers alumni against former Montreal Canadiens greats. It is being held on the 86th anniversary to help celebrate the Edmonton franchise's 25th year in the league after joining from the World Hockey Association. A sellout crowd of 52,500 is expected at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.

The forecast? Clear skies, with temperatures near 15 degrees.

"Once you start the game and you start playing, I don't think the cold will be a factor," Messier told AP. "It's been a long time since a lot of us have played outside, but I think the excitement and the adrenaline and all those things, I don't think you'll notice the cold."

Sather will be behind the Oilers' bench for the MegaStars game that precedes the regular-season NHL game between Edmonton and Montreal.

The Rangers' schedule helped Messier. After Thursday's game in Denver, the Rangers don't play again until Sunday afternoon, when they host the Ottawa Senators.

"We got lucky in that regard," Messier told AP. "A quick flight up to Edmonton from here, and then we fly home Saturday afternoon. I was really lucky with the schedules the way they meshed."

Messier, 42, said he wants to show his appreciation to Edmonton, where he won five of his six Stanley Cups.

"I'm just going back there to be a part of the game, and it's a good way for me to say thanks to a lot of people in Edmonton," he said. "I'm just going there to have a good time and be a part of something that's obviously very important to Edmonton, to the franchise, and obviously to the league."

Messier will be the only active NHL player on either squad.

"It's an important thing for hockey, a spectacle that the NHL is putting on. It's good for the game, it's good for Canadian hockey in general," Messier said earlier in the week. "My thought is that it's a way to promote the game, give back to an organization that was good to me for 12 years, to say thanks to a lot of people that meant a lot to me in my career."

"This is a hockey promotion," Sather said. "This is not a Mark Messier promotion. It's a great experience for this guy. It's a great experience in Canada. ... and there will be all of hockey there."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.