The Moose becomes the fourth NHL veteran to call it a career on the eve of the game's rebirth, joining Scott Stevens, Vincent Damphousse and Al MacInnis.
The NHL's changing of the guard continued Monday as Mark Messier retired after a quarter-century of duty.
Messier, 44, leaves with six Stanley Cups, 1,887 points and a legacy of leadership. His new hockey address will be the Hall of Fame."It's a bittersweet day for the National Hockey League," said Wayne Gretzky, Messier's friend and former Edmonton Oilers teammate."Mark has done so much for the game of hockey and taught so many of our young players. He was an exceptional leader who was unselfish, hard-working and dedicated. He truly loved the game."Add former Rangers teammate Tie Domi: "It's a sad day for hockey, he's one of the greatest players ever. And probably the best teammate ever."Messier joins Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Vincent Damphousse and James Patrick in retiring on the eve of training camp, ending distinguished careers put on hiatus last season by the lockout.His health is fine, Messier said, noting that's not always the case in hockey."It's been a long career. I've achieved a lot. There was just really nothing left for me to achieve I guess," he said on a conference call. "It was just time to move aside and go on to something else."In his heyday, Messier cruised the ice like a shark. There was raw power mingled with a mean streak. He wielded power on and off the ice, taking on opponents and owners alike."With Mark it was all about winning," said friend and former Oilers teammate Kevin Lowe. "His whole game was channelled and focused that way. His off-ice preparation, his on-ice preparation. I don't think anybody ever did it better in the history of the game."After Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, Messier stepped up and led the Oilers to another Stanley Cup in 1989-90 -- his fifth. But he left Edmonton in a dispute over money and went to New York for the 1991-92 season, helping restore Ranger pride. With Messier as captain, New York topped the league and won the Cup in '94, defeating the Canucks in seven games."It's an end to an era for a unique individual," said Florida Panthers GM Mike Keenan, who was the Rangers head coach in 1994. "I had the opportunity and a privileged glance at his ability."The game will miss him for sure."Pat Quinn coached against Messier in that final."Mark, I think, provided some real leadership for that team," said Quinn, now coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "Apparently lots of things went on behind the scenes there and he was a big part of keeping that group together. Behind the scenes he had kept that very talented and veteran team on line."At his prime, Messier talked the talk and walked the walk.