Mark Messier, who in 1994 led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years, is returning to the club as a special assistant to general manager Glen Sather, the club said Sunday. Messier, a six-time Cup champion as a player, has not been shy in recent years about his desire to eventually run a team as GM.
This could be the first step in the process that might lead Messier replacing Sather when the current GM's tenure with the Rangers is over.
In a statement, Sather called Messier one of the greatest players in the NHL and is "looking forward to him joining the organization and learning a whole new part of the hockey business."
Messier played his final game with the Rangers on March 31, 2004 — during his second stint with the team — and scored his 694th goal. He officially announced his retirement on Sept. 12, 2005, after the yearlong NHL lockout.
His Rangers' No. 11 was retired by the team and raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters in January 2006.
Messier expressed some interest in the job of New York's assistant general manager after Don Maloney left to become the GM of the Phoenix Coyotes in May 2007, but didn't return to the Rangers then.
"I am looking forward to joining the Rangers organization and having the opportunity to learn a new part of the business, working closely with Glen," Messier said in a statement. "I have felt a strong connection to the Rangers, Madison Square Garden and the city of New York from the moment I arrived in 1991. I am honored to begin this new chapter of my career here."
The 16-time NHL All-Star came to New York on Oct. 4, 1991, in a blockbuster trade with the Edmonton Oliers — where Sather served as Messier's coach and GM. Messier was named Rangers captain in his first home game three days later after making his debut with the team on Oct. 5.
The Rangers posted the NHL's best record in Messier's first season when he had a team-high 107 points and won the Hart Trophy for the second time as league MVP.
During the Rangers' run to the 1994 Stanley Cup title, Messier set a team-playoff record with 12 goals — including the Cup winner in Game 7 against Vancouver.
Messier ranks second behind longtime teammate Wayne Gretzky on the NHL career scoring list with 1,887 points. He is seventh in goals and third in assists (1,193).
Messier was the first player to captain two franchises to the Stanley Cup, first leading the Oilers to the title in 1990.