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NEW YORK -- Mark Messier, who was recently passed over for the New York Rangers' coaching job, issued a statement Thursday saying he's leaving the organization.
Messier denied his decision was based on not being hired as the club's coach. He lost out to former Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who was introduced last Friday as John Tortorella's replacement.
"I am resigning my position with the team to pursue an opportunity to expand the game of hockey in the New York area by developing the Kingsbridge National Ice Center," Messier said. "Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth. I completely respect the decision that was made and for all the reasons it was made. I harbor no hard feelings toward Glen [Sather] or the Rangers. This is a personal choice I am making to create a program in the New York area that will give our children more choices and opportunities in the future. I wish the Rangers nothing but the best in the future."
Team president and general manager Glen Sather thought Messier's choice did have something to do with not getting the coaching job.
"I think that's part of the decision but we all have to live our own lives the way we decide to do it," Sather said after Thursday afternoon's Board of Governors meeting in Midtown NYC. "His choice was to decide to move on."
Sather said there was no friction between him and the iconic former captain, who led the Rangers to a Stanley Cup championship in 1994, ending a 54-year drought.
"We parted on great terms," said Sather. "Mark's a great friend of mine and [I've] virtually spent most of my life and his life together."
The 52-year-old Messier, who served as a special assistant to Sather, was strongly considered for the job, though his lack of NHL coaching experience appeared to be a factor in the decision to hire Vigneault.
"Experience is part of it," Sather said. "If you want coach in this league you need a little experience. I think Mark, if he decides to coach, will be great at it. He just needs to get a little time behind the bench."
Sather was also asked whether the Rangers had made a decision on whether they will buy out Brad Richards' contract. Sather said they had not but will make a choice "shortly."
The compliance buyout window opened Wednesday night and will close before free agency begins July 5. As of late Wednesday night, Richards had yet to be informed of a decision one way or the other from the Rangers, he told ESPNNewYork.com via text message.