NEW YORK -- Throughout the New York Rangers’ exhilarating run to the finals, one of the most beloved players in franchise history, Mark Messier, who captained the team to its last Stanley Cup championship in 1994, has chosen to avoid the spotlight.
“I think it’s just about being respectful,” said Messier, who will be in attendance at Madison Square Garden for Game 3 of New York’s Stanley Cup finals series against the Los Angles Kings.
It will be the first finals game at MSG since Messier and the Rangers ended a 54-year title drought nearly 20 years ago.
“These players have earned the right to be here where they are right now,” Messier continued. “They’ve earned the right for the spotlight. It’s their time and it’s their year. I’m just trying to be respectful of that. I just believe that there’s a lot of opinions and weighing in right now, but just trying to move aside and let the light shine where it should, and that’s on this year’s team.”
During the offseason, Messier, formerly a special assistant under GM Glen Sather, emerged as a favorite to land the team’s head-coaching vacancy, but he was ultimately beaten out for the job by Alain Vigneault. Messier ultimately decided to leave the organization, but denied it was because he lost out on the coaching job. At the time, Messier said he harbors no ill-will toward MSG, something he reiterated Monday.
“The relationship between myself and the Garden will never change,” he said. “That’s a lifelong relationship that needs to be good and always will be. There was no resentment whatsoever in the decision made. I knew it was a big decision and I was only trying in a position that was void and thought I could do a job for the Rangers. But decisions are made and you move on. I’ve moved on. They’ve moved on. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed watching the Rangers this year.”
Messier, whose “guarantee” and hat trick in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New Jersey Devils will forever live in Blueshirts’ lore, said there’s “no question” he believes the Rangers can rally back from their 2-0 series deficit against the Kings.
“Watching the first two games, there’s no question they can get back into it,” he said. “I think their resiliency throughout the playoffs has been a bit underrated.”