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Big Four inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

TORONTO -- On the day he accepted hockey's greatest honor,
Mark Messier remembered where it all began.

"It starts at home with the efforts put forth by your mother
and father for all those early morning practices," he said before
Monday night's ceremony. "All your minor-league hockey coaches who
picked you up when your parents couldn't get there, your brothers
and sisters, and all the players and coaches that helped you along
the way."

Messier, the granite-jawed center who epitomized leadership on
the ice, entered the Hockey Hall of Fame with Ron Francis,
Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis, along with former executive Jim Gregory.

"When people go through this hall 75 years from now, our
plaques will be up there," Messier said. "That's pretty
humbling."

Messier, Francis, Stevens and MacInnis made the hall in their
first year of eligibility, automatic inclusions that surprised no
one. And they're not done writing their hockey stories.

Francis and MacInnis hold NHL front-office positions. Messier
and Stevens are contemplating following their lead.

"It's the love we have for the game and the passion we have for
the game," said MacInnis, vice president of hockey operations with
the St. Louis Blues. "The game has been so good for all of us over
the last 25 years that we feel we can maybe give something back to
the game."

Francis, assistant GM and director of player development with
the Carolina Hurricanes, said "everything I have in my life is
because of the game."

Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers
and New York Rangers, clearly wants to get back in the NHL. He made
headlines last year when he mentioned he'd like to be a GM.

"There's no imminent plan," said Messier, who in 1994 helped
the Rangers end their 54-year drought without a title. "I'm not
pursuing anything at this particular time, but I'm definitely going
to be looking to step back in some capacity, probably sooner rather
than later."

He'd love for that opportunity to be with the Rangers, but he's
willing to listen to other teams since New York is set with
Glen Sather.

Stevens, who leads the NHL in games played by a defenseman with
1,635, has an open invitation from New Jersey Devils GM Lou
Lamoriello to jump on board.

"We'll see," Stevens said. "Coaching is very demanding, I've
been around great coaches and I know what it takes to be a coach
and the time that it takes. I don't know if I'm ready for those
long hours."

MacInnis, a defenseman, was an important part of Calgary's lone
NHL championship in 1989 but yearns to help deliver a Stanley Cup
to St. Louis in his new capacity.

"I've said all along that I would have loved to have won a
Stanley Cup in St. Louis as a player," he said. "The fans are
such a committed group. They've been looking for one since 1967."

Gregory, inducted in the builders' category, was the general
manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1969-70 to 1978-79. He is
heartened to see top players staying in the game.

Joining Francis and MacInnis in front-office roles are recently
retired stars Steve Yzerman in Detroit, Luc Robitaille in Los
Angeles, Doug Gilmour in Toronto and Brett Hull in Dallas.

"In the past going back to the era where Gordie Howe and Rocket
Richard and those players, the really great players didn't seem to
go into management or at least not right away," Gregory said. "I
told these fellas [Francis, Messier, MacInnis and Stevens], if you
get your heart into the executive part of the business the way you
did as a player, you'll feel like you should pay to go to work."