Checking in with Messier, Larionov

October, 28, 2009

Mark Messier is enjoying life in an NHL front office. Igor Larionov has discovered the world of player agency.

The two Hall of Famers spoke to this week for stories I'm working on featuring Brian Leetch and Steve Yzerman, both scheduled for Hall inductions Nov. 9 along with Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille (my colleague Scott Burnside is handling those two).

But I asked both Messier and Larionov how life is treating them. "The Moose" is finding his first season in the New York Rangers' front office to be quite educational, while "The Professor" revealed he is no longer running St. Petersburg in the KHL and has instead began to consult with NHL player agent Ian Pulver.

"First and foremost, it's great to be back in the game," said Messier, a special assistant to the president with the Rangers. "And it's great being in a situation where the games mean something again. I love hockey and I love watching it, but it's much different when you're working toward something. We've gotten off to a good start, which has made the start of the season a lot of fun."

So, what exactly does the special assistant to the president (Glen Sather) do?

"Glen has given me a lot of latitude to look into the organization, into a lot of different areas, to spend time in different areas, starting with Traverse City [Red Wings rookie tournament], working through training camp, evaluating, going to Hartford [AHL], watching other games, taking in some meetings downtown with internal operations ... every day is different," Messier said. "A lot of latitude to move around, see what's going on and continue to learn."

It's clear from the enthusiasm in Messier's voice that the second chapter of his hockey career is officially under way.

Larionov thought that was the case when he took on a leading voice in the fledgling KHL in his native Russia, seemingly a key voice to league president Alexander Medvedev. Larionov was the director of hockey operations for St. Petersburg, the team Medvedev also owns. But Larionov, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November, revealed to that he left his hockey operations duties with the club at the end of last season, although he has retained his seat on the board of directors. He cited philosophical differences.

"I felt the team's direction was wrong for me, so I decided to step down," Larionov said.

So, the former hockey star joined Pulver Sports a couple of months ago. He has scouted players in the Ontario Hockey League and in Russia, among other places.

"It's been a lot of fun," Larionov said. "I've enjoyed talking to the kids and their parents. It's been a new experience."

There's still no official working arrangement between the two.

"We're in discussions and exploring different avenues," Pulver told on Tuesday night. "Igor is a very unique individual who has done it all, from his Red Army days to forging a Hall of Fame playing career. He's a credit to hockey worldwide and he's an outstanding individual."

One idea being bandied about between Larionov and Pulver is perhaps setting up some sort of Russian and European office where the Hall of Famer could set up shop.

A final note
Speaking of former players finding work, I've got an update on Jocelyn Thibault, one of the "in-limbo players" I featured in a story last season. I ran into Thibault recently, and he informed me he had been hired as a goaltending consultant for the Colorado Avalanche, his first NHL team. Somehow, I had missed that news release in the offseason.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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