Mark Messier on '94 Cup win
You won six Stanley Cups in your career, but the one with the Rangers is the one that stands out. What did it mean to end that 54-year drought for that franchise?
There's just so much meaning in that Cup. Obviously it's an Original Six team, a 54-year drought, the generations of fans, the fan base, it just runs so deep with meaning, not only for the organization and the players but for the people. I think it really transcended hockey in general. It became bigger than the game. The storylines were incredible. It was a tremendous moment for sports and, like I said, I think it transcended hockey and put it where it really kind of captured a lot of people's imaginations.
In the conference finals in '94, you famously guaranteed a win in Game 6, then backed it up with a hat trick. Were you nervous at any point about not being able to deliver on your guarantee?
No. No. I didn't think of it in that regard. I realized how close we were to winning a cup because of my experience in the past. I felt we could beat New Jersey because we'd proved it to ourselves six times in the regular season, where we won all six matches. We found ourselves in an incredible series against a team that was playing really well, but I still believed we could win the series. I think as the event unfolded and you're getting ready to play the game, you just prepare the way you always have and get ready to play the game and shut out all outside distractions. You get ready to play the game and your preparation gives you the confidence to go out there and play your best. I think as a group, that's what we tried to do. We relied on our preparation and all the work we put in all year. We relied on our conditioning and we relied on the fact we believed in each other and we went in there and, collectively, we found a way to win the game.
The '94 Stanley Cup finals went to a Game 7. What was going through your mind as the final seconds of that game ticked away and as you finally got to lift the Cup?
It was an incredible journey. Coming to New York was the start of a new chapter in my career. I was excited to be a part of this team and come to New York and try to accomplish something that hadn't been done in a very long time. You know, we win the Presidents' Trophy [in '91-92], the next year we miss the playoffs and the next year we won the Stanley Cup, so it was an eventful three years as far as emotions were concerned, so when we were finally able to accomplish our goal and win the Stanley Cup, it was an incredible feeling.
You won five Cups in a seven-year span with the Oilers. Do you think we'll ever see a team as dominant as that one was?
I don't think, the way the NHL is set up right now, it'll be possible. I think teams are built through the draft right now and you develop your own players. You can obviously make trades but mostly trades are more about correcting free agents and moving money, so basically you have to rely on your scouting staffs and player development. By doing so, it means that your players have come up the ladder over the years and if you get to the point of winning the Stanley Cup, they're going to be paid handsomely for it. Obviously, when you get to that point there, because of the salary cap, it'll be hard to hang on to a Stanley Cup-winning team for many years after winning the Cup. I believe it'll be hard for anybody to have a dominant run of five Cups in seven years like we did in Edmonton.
Last year, you ran in the New York City marathon. How important is it to you to stay active after retirement?
Because I played professional hockey for so long and was involved in hockey for so long, that discipline and staying in shape and being in shape matters. I think one of the big things about playing a professional sport is being so in tune with your own body and being in shape. That's a real gift to be in connection with your body in that regard. Since retirement, and getting older, it's not as easy, but I still think it's an important part of your mental makeup to be in good condition and feel good about yourself and have the energy to do things you've always liked to have done.
One of the things you're also involved in is The Messier Project and developing a new helmet that's safer. How do you think the NHL will address the problem of concussions going forward?
I don't think there's a day that goes by that the NHL is not always trying to improve its game, whether it's through player protection, player safety, trying to make the game more exciting. We're all looking for ways to protect our players better and one of the ways I'm trying to do it is by addressing the fact that we're using basically the same technology in our helmets that we've had for the last 50 years or so. If you really look at it objectively, there's no excuse for the lack of initiative to build better technology. That's where I'm trying to help and I think the M11 has proven that we can do that. The bigger initiative for The Messier Project is trying to educate all the people in hockey, the parents and coaches and teams and organizations, what to look for, the proper protocol and the right way to play. I think that will stem from the grass-roots level and hopefully trickle up to the NHL level and we've made an incredible footprint in the last three years and will continue to do so.
This year's Rangers team faced a very similar situation in the playoffs to your team in 1994. Did that bring back any memories for you?
I don't like to compare years, teams, players. I never have. I purposely tried to stay out of the way at this time of year out of respect for the players and what they've accomplished. They've earned the right for the attention to be turned towards them. Like we like to say, my ship sailed a long time ago. It's not my turn, it's their turn, so I've tried to keep the focus on those players.