Messier retires after 25 seasons

NEW YORK -- Mark Messier retired Monday, ending a 25-year
career in which he won six Stanley Cup championships and ranked
second only to Wayne Gretzky on the NHL all-time scoring list.

Mark Messier Messier

The Rangers announced that the team will retire his jersey on Jan. 12 in a game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Messier said "a host of things" contributed to his decision.

He became a star in Edmonton in the 1980s and a headliner
on Broadway in the '90s, captaining the New York Rangers to the '94
championship that ended the team's 54-year title drought.

"It's been a long career and I've achieved a lot," the
44-year-old said on a conference call. "There was nothing really left of me to achieve."

Even though the official announcement came Monday, Messier all
but said goodbye on March 31, 2004, following the Rangers' final
home game before the lockout that wiped out all of last season.

"It's a bittersweet day for the National Hockey League," said Wayne Gretzky, Messier's former teammate with the Oilers and Rangers. "Mark has done so much for the game of hockey and taught so many of our young players. He was an exceptional leader who was unselfish, hard-working and dedicated. He truly loved the game.

"He was the best player I ever played with and it was a pleasure to play with him each and every day."

The Rangers held physicals for their players on Monday at the
opening of training camp, but the longtime star never expressed
intentions to return for another season.

"It was a tough decision," Messier said. "I'm healthy and
feel good and I feel like I can play."

Messier said he never negotiated with the Rangers, and the decision to return to New York was "completely up to me."

But Rangers general manager Glen Sather, the architect of the
Oilers' dynasty that was spearheaded by Messier and Gretzky, always
left room for the rock-jawed captain to come back.

Messier teamed with Gretzky to win four championships in
Edmonton during the 1980s and then won another in 1990 after
Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles.

He trails only Gretzky in playoff goals and assists, but he
topped the Great One by adding one postseason guarantee that took
him to heightened status in Manhattan.

With the Rangers trailing New Jersey 3-2 in the 1994 Eastern
Conference finals, Messier promised New York would force a seventh
game. He made good on his word by posting his fourth and final
playoff hat trick in a 4-2 victory.

New York won Game 7 in double overtime to advance to the finals,
which also ended with a seventh game victory.

His second stint with the Rangers, which covered the final four
seasons of his career, wasn't nearly as successful. New York failed
to make the playoffs in any of the years. Messier played in the
postseason during his first 13 NHL years, before New York missed in

After leaving the Rangers following their most recent playoff
appearance in 1997, Messier was out of the playoffs for the next
seven years -- including three with Vancouver.

He leaves with 1,887 NHL regular-season points, 970 fewer than
Gretzky and 37 more than Gordie Howe, who sits in third place.

"I never thought about any individual records," Messier said.
"Coming back to break any records, especially that record wasn't
all that appealing to me."

Messier always did things on his terms, and his retirement is no
different. After a year off, he wasn't spurred to play again even
though he is only six goals away from 700 -- a mark reached by only
six players -- and 11 games short of tying Howe's record of 1,767.

Edmonton general manager Kevin Lowe, Messier's longtime teammate
on the great Oilers teams, tried to convince him to return to his
hometown for a farewell tour. But Messier really only considered
playing in New York, where he has a young family.

Messier was showered with applause from teammates, family,
friends, fans and even the Buffalo Sabres when he skated off the
ice for what turned out to be his final game 18 months ago, a 4-3
loss at Madison Square Garden.

Messier and Gretzky have always been linked, whether on the ice
or in the record book. Messier scored 109 playoff goals, 13 fewer
than Gretzky, and set up 186 others -- 74 fewer than Gretzky, now
the Phoenix Coyotes coach.

But the second partnership lasted just one year as Messier left
the Rangers for Vancouver as a free agent following a surprising
run with Gretzky to the Eastern Conference finals.

When Sather took over as Rangers GM in 2000 he brought Messier
back. Messier scored his final goal in his final game, No. 698 with
the Rangers.

The inability to rekindle success in New York and the departure
of close friend Brian Leetch, who was traded to Toronto as part of
the Rangers' salary dump of 2004, surely pushed Messier to his
final goodbye to Broadway.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.