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Island resident Mark Messier reflects on Hockey Hall of Fame induction

The island resident will be in Toronto for the ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Published Thursday, November 8, 2007
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  • Photo: Forward Mark Messier skates with the puck during an NHL career marked by 16 all-star appearances and six Stanley Cup championships. The Hilton Head Island resident will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.

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The list of awards is beyond impressive -- six Stanley Cup championships, 16 all-star appearances, two Hart Memorial Trophies as the National Hockey League's Most Valuable Player.

His No. 11 sweater hangs from the rafters in two buildings -- Rexall Place in Edmonton and Madison Square Garden in New York.

But Hilton Head Island resident Mark Messier will add one more honor to the list Monday, when he is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto along with Ron Francis, Jim Gregory, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens.

Amidst the week's festivities, "The Captain" took a few minutes to talk to The Island Packet about hockey, life after hockey, and the prospect of returning to hockey.


Listen to the Mark Messier interview

Question: You've had lots of honors, and had a couple of sweaters retired in the past couple of years, but how will this weekend stack up to those other honors?

Answer: Well, I think they're very similar. It gives you an opportunity to reflect back on your career and all the people who were responsible for helping you along the way. The Hall of Fame is something that I have a lot of respect for, and for the people who are in there before me and the people who are going in there. So it makes for a very reflective week leading up to it and a good chance to see a lot friends I haven't seen in a long time.

Q. You're still living on Hilton Head Island, right? How much time do you spend here?

A. Since I retired, I've come back down there and I probably spend three weeks out of every month down there now, and probably the other week up in New York. It's almost a reverse commute, if you will, from when I was playing and coming down there in the summer.

Q. It seems like you manage to keep a pretty low profile, even though you're a very recognizable figure in a relatively small town. How do you manage to do that?

A. I don't do it purposely, and I'm certainly not doing it by design. Jacqueline and Douglas are just 2 and 4 years old right now, so we're busy with the kids right now. They're at that stage where they need a lot of attention, so we're not out as much as we would like to be or will be. I try to go to all the kids' games, and go to the (Hilton Head Prep) football games and soccer games, so that's probably our big night out now.

Q. This weekend will kind of mark the last remnant of your playing days, but you've mentioned wanting to be the next general manager of the Rangers. Are you still looking for some route back into hockey at some point?

A. Well, I'm not actively pursuing any position at the moment, but I definitely feel that at some point I will be back in the game. Obviously, there has to be an opportunity and a vacancy to do that, but if the right opportunity presents itself, I think it would be a lot of fun to get back in the game and win a championship at another level.

Q. You played for some esteemed coaches over the years. Who were the coaches who maybe taught you the most, and how did those coaches stack up against one another?

A. It's always a learning experience from year to year or from day to day. All coaches are different; they all have their own style, their own distinct personalities. So I think the thing to do is to take a little bit from everybody you're involved with throughout your career. For me, Glen Sather was a guy I learned a lot from early in my career who helped a lot of us throughout our careers. Mike Keenan was a great coach, and Marc Crawford was another guy I really respected and learned a lot from. I was lucky because I was in a position to have great people around me my whole career, starting with the owners to the general managers to the coaches to the players. That makes a big difference, because nobody in a team sport can thrive on their own, they need the support of everyone else around them.

Q. Winning six Stanley Cup titles is almost unheard of, and I'm sure you couldn't have imagined having that kind of success when you got into the sport. Did winning five Cups in that seven-year span with Edmonton kind of spoil you and make you think you could win it every year?

A. Not really, because you realize how hard it is to win it so you never really feel that way. And when you are winning it, you're scared to death that you're not going to win it, so there wasn't a lot of time to enjoy it during those seven years. But once you do know that you can win it and you have perhaps the recipe for success, it gives you the confidence that if you do execute and you do put the commitment into it, you at least have a chance. And that's all you can really ask for.

Q. Is there one of the six Cups that is most memorable for you?

A. Well, they're all special, and they're all different because of different players, different circumstances and different motivations. But obviously the first one and the last one were special because of the circumstances around them. The first one in Edmonton -- big hockey town that didn't have NHL hockey for a long time. A lot of fans there had watched the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs all their lives. And then the one in New York -- an Original Six team that hadn't won in 54 years, so that was pretty special, too.

Q. What are you most looking forward to during induction weekend? There's a lot on the docket, but what will be the highlight for you?

A. I just think in the end it's the players and the people who supported me throughout my career. A lot of them will be there, some won't be, but the ones who will be there, it will be fun to see again. And it will be fun to enter the Hall of Fame with all the great players and people who have gone before us.

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