Okay, I wanna talk about Mark Messier, my hockey hero.
Obviously, I grew up in Canada and am old enough that I can remember watching Hockey Night in Canada when there were only six teams in the league. My dad - of course - got first pick of the teams. He chose Toronto. My brother - even though he's a year younger than me - got second choice. He chose Montreal. I got third choice. I could have Detroit, Boston, Chicago or New York, but at the time I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so of course I chose New York.
What, you ask, has this to do with Mark Messier? Who played a big part of his career with the Edmonton Oilers?
I'm a Messier fan because he's such a great leader. Yes, he's a great player, has a great view of the game, he's fast and he's smart and he's strong. But above all that, he's a great leader. And I think he'd get a whole lot more credit if he hadn't played so much of his career with Wayne Gretzky. I think Gretzky is probably the best individual hockey player ever (kinda like Zinedine Zidane for soccer - I know, I know, some of you will disagree with me about that) but Mark has something extra. He has the ability to inspire.
And now we're back to the Rangers. I've been a New York Rangers fan since I was too young to know where New York was. And when Mark went to the Rangers, they hadn't won a Stanley Cup in 54 years. He went in there and convinced them, kicking and screaming and pulling teeth, that they were good enough to win the Stanley Cup. He said to them, you can't be afraid to slay the dragon. He convinced them that they could win. And when they faltered, he promised them that he would win the crucial game for them and he did. They went on to win the Cup and Mark Messier deserves the credit for it.
This week he went into the Hockey Hall of Fame - and what did he say? He said all we had to do was follow Wayne Gretzky. He would take us wherever we wanted to go. But I don't think that's true - I think all his teammates had to do was follow Mark Messier. He, without Gretzky, took his team to the Stanley Cup, a feat Gretzy couldn't accomplish without him.
That's my rant for the day.