Messier the Great, Skates Into The Wind
What a season. The then captain of the Rangers Mike Gartner traded away, Mark Messier is brought in. Changes all around. The team didn't gel at first, but these things take time. As time passed it was evident that this year there was a chance. It had been 54 years since the Rangers last hoisted the most prized trophy in history, The Stanley Cup. As the season progressed the Rangers extended their lead in the standings and the playoffs were about to begin. They breezed through the first round of the playoffs. Next up the arch rivals, The New York Islanders. We took that series too. Next up the dreaded New Jersey Devils.
Mark Messier was brought to New York to win a Stanley Cup. He had won four as an Edmonton Oiler with good pal Wayne Gretzky. Knowing the history, he came to New York, tall mission at hand. To bring the Stanley Cup to New York, as a Ranger, would be equivalent to walking on water.
I only went through 21 years of life to see what I saw next. Years with Berry Beck's slap shot, Maloney brothers lacing up, and John Davidson in net, not blocking much. These were painful years for a die hard fan to watch. Year after year of failure. You just started to expect it after a while, but you couldn't stop watching.
In a best of seven game series, the Rangers fell behind 3-2 to the Devils. Heading for a game at Continental Airlines Arena, in the swamps of the Meadowlands of New Jersey. It seemed like another doomed season. That afternoon at the press conference Mark Messier stood amongst the greats and said "We will win tonight. I guarantee it." Going into the final period of that game, Mark Messier pulled off one of the greats moments in NY sports history. Mark Messier scored a hat trick, three goals by himself, winning the game and returning the series to Madison Square Garden, for a winner take all game of games. Game seven ended tied after regulation. In the third overtime period, it happened. "Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!!!!". The puck crossed the goal line off the stick off Stephan Matteau and the New York Rangers were headed to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks. I still can't watch the time expire in game seven of the cup finals without shedding some tears. Mark Messier had delivered the Stanley Cup to the city of New York. Mark Messier was a hero, a legend, "the messiah"(his nickname from that day on). Marv Albert was ten stories below the ice surface in Penn Station and when time expired he said the train station shook.
I went to the parade in Manhattan, the "Canyon of Heroes", Broadway. They say that almost four million people came to the parade. I believe them. I couldn't even catch a glimpse of the man who made a promise to a city and kept it.
Mark Messier retired today after 25 seasons. He finished his career as the 2nd leading point scorer of all time, behind Wayne Gretzky and ahead of Gordie Howe. When I read the news, I welled up and reminisced about 1994 the season of Mark Messier. I will never forget the feeling he and his Rangers gave me. For that I thank you, a city owes you a debt of gratitude. As you skate away into the sunset, know that you touched millions of people, spanning generations, and you will always have a place in our hearts for keeping the promise of promises..."We will win tonight. I guarantee it."
Thank You Mark. It was a pleasure watching you. The memories will be forever.