Adieu Mark Messier
I wouldn't normally blog about sports heroes because I have grown too old and these are usually celebrated when you are much younger than I am. Though I will make an exception for Mark Messier of the New York Rangers. He was the last sports figure I was able to regard with both respect and awe. Yesterday he decided at the ripe old age of 44 to call it a career.
He came to New York and played for my beloved hockey team at a time when they hadn't won a Stanley Cup Championship in over 50 years. He was well past his prime and had enjoyed considerable success elsewhere. Most people would have been satisfied with all he had accomplished to that point.
I'm not sure what motivated him but he certainly wasn't afraid of a challenge. In May of 1994 his team was down 3 games to 2 and it looked like it was going to turn out badly for the Blueshirts. Instead of rolling over like many people would have and succumbing to the inevitable bad luck that had plagued the Rangers, Messier told the world that he "guaranteed a victory" in their next game.
It was on this occasion that I witnessed something that I will remember all my life. It was one man taking over a game completely and dominating the moment. The quintessential moment came at the beginning of the final period of play and the Rangers were losing by a goal. At was at this moment the TV cameras showed Messier standing in front of all his teammates on the bench exhorting them not to give up. It was such an awesome display of fortitude that even the coach had to stand and just watch. Messier then went out and scored 3 goals in the period and the Rangers won.
From then on nothing could stop the Rangers and their 54 year stretch without a Stanley Cup was over. Accomplishments like this are easily overshadowed these days by reports of athletes compromising their integrity with Steroids, and that's too bad. They would all be better off trying to remember the story of the man who guaranteed a victory and then delivered. Thanks, Mark.