Messier quits after six Stanley Cups

Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2005


  ** FILE ** New York Rangers captain Mark Messier lifts the Stanley Cup over his head as he skates around the ice in New York's Madison Square Garden in this Jan. 20, 1995 file photo, before the season opener against Buffalo. Messier retired Monday, Sept. 12, 2005 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. (AP Photo/Kevin Larkin) KEVIN LARKIN

** FILE ** New York Rangers captain Mark Messier lifts the Stanley Cup over his head as he skates around the ice in New York's Madison Square Garden in this Jan. 20, 1995 file photo, before the season opener against Buffalo. Messier retired Monday, Sept. 12, 2005 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. (AP Photo/Kevin Larkin)


NEW YORK — Mark Messier was 30 and already a five-time Stanley Cup champion when it was time to leave the hometown Edmonton Oilers.

That was the summer of 1991, three years after Wayne Gretzky's stunning trade to Los Angeles and a year removed from the Oilers' fifth title in seven years. The dynasty was over and Messier was the latest big star about to be shipped out.

Glen Sather, the man who built the team and ran it from the bench during the glory years, asked Messier where he wanted to go. The answer was the New York Rangers, a team that hadn't won a Stanley Cup since 1940.

On Monday, the stone-jawed captain said goodbye, announcing his retirement after a 25-year career and six championships — including the one in 1994 that ended the Rangers' drought. He is second only to Gretzky on the NHL's career scoring list.

It took only three seasons for Messier to deliver with the Rangers and cement himself as one of the greatest leaders in team sports.

''I knew all the past history of the teams in New York ... but I don't think anything can really prepare you for going to play in New York until you get there,'' Messier said during a conference call. ''I felt that I was fairly confident in what it took to win a Stanley Cup.''

Messier embraced the challenge, and when it appeared another chance was going to slip away he pulled a page out of the Joe Namath handbook and guaranteed a victory.

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 ended with a seventh-game victory over Vancouver.

''He had the biggest influence on my career by far of any player that I played with,'' said Boston defenseman Brian Leetch, a Rangers' player from 1988-04. ''I wish everyone could have had an opportunity to be in the locker room with him and see his dedication to his teammates and to winning.''

Messier became a star in Edmonton in the 1980s and a headliner on Broadway in the '90s. But the end of his career couldn't come close to matching the early part. His final seven seasons all finished without a postseason appearance — three in Vancouver after his first departure from New York and four more in his second stint with the Rangers.

''That is something that is always going to be a disappointment for me but I think there are so many good things that happened in the playoffs previous to that that it will diminish those feelings,'' Messier said.

Sather, now the Rangers' GM, left room for Messier to come back but talks never got that far.

On Jan. 12, exactly 37 years after Namath fulfilled his promise and lifted the Jets in the Super Bowl over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, the Rangers will retire Messier's No. 11 before a game against the Oilers. It will join Rod Gilbert's No. 7, Ed Giacomin's No. 1 and teammate Mike Richter's No. 35.

That will give him a chance to better show his emotions. Messier said he made the announcement on a conference call because, ''no one wants to see a blubbering idiot at the podium.''

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. He isn't sure he would've played anyway.

In fact, he said the desire to return was stronger now than this time last year. But he leaves in good health and is looking forward to spending time with his young family. He has an 18-year-old son playing hockey in Texas and a 2-year-old child and a 3-week-old baby at home.

''There was nothing left for me to really achieve,'' the 44-year-old Messier said. ''It was time for me to move aside and go into something else.''

He doesn't have anything set up yet, but Messier said he is willing to listen to any offers that will keep him closely tied to the game he loves.

''As tough as it was to make the decision, I think it's the right one and I feel good about it,'' the two-time MVP said.

Messier teamed with Gretzky to win four championships in Edmonton and won another in 1990 without him. The 16-time All-Star is the only player to captain two franchises to the Stanley Cup.

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

''He was an exceptional leader who was unselfish, hardworking and dedicated. He truly loved the game,'' Gretzky said. ''He was the best player I ever played with.''

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

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.

He also scored one goal and had 10 assists in 52 games in the WHA with Indianapolis and Cincinnati when he was 17.

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FBI ignores informant rules rewritten after abuses in 1990s, Justice Department says

Eds: AMs


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI agents often violate bureau's rules for handling confidential informants that were revised after FBI abuses in the 1990s, the Justice Department's internal watchdog said Monday.

A review of 120 confidential informant files from FBI offices around the country found violations in 104 cases, or 87 percent, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said. His 301-page report, parts of which were blacked out, examined FBI compliance with rules that govern most criminal investigations.

The report said agents failed to assess informants' suitability or get permission for informants to engage in activity that otherwise would be illegal. Agents did not convey proper instructions or tell prosecutors when informants had committed crimes that were not authorized by their FBI handlers, Fine said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to the report, said many agents find the required paperwork cumbersome. In a statement, the FBI said the violations were ''administrative'' and that officials have begun simplifying procedures.

Among the material in the report that was withheld from the public is how many confidential informants the FBI uses. Some have provided information to the FBI for more than six years. Others are designated ''high-level'' informants because they are part of the senior leadership of a group the FBI is investigating.

A third category of informants identified in the report includes lawyers, doctors and clergy — all obligated to keep confidential their dealings with clients — or members of the news media.

FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell said the bureau would not identify whether any of its informants are clergy or members of the media.

''We can use them and if a need presents, I'm sure we do,'' Cogswell said. ''But we do not want to identify what our sources are.''

Confidential informants are critical to some prosecutions, the report said. But their use by the FBI also ''presents serious risks, including the risk that informants may claim that their criminal activities were authorized or acquiesced in by the government,'' Fine said.

John Wesley Hall, a vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said, ''It sounds like they can break their own rules when they're investigating crimes. Too bad our clients can't bend the rules.''

The Attorney General's Investigative Guidelines were developed in the mid-1970s in response to FBI surveillance and infiltration of civil rights and other protest groups in the 1950s and 1960s.

The section on informants was overhauled in 2001, after celebrated cases in which FBI agents protected mobsters from prosecution or tipped them off to investigations while simultaneously using them as FBI informants.

In one case, former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. tipped off Boston mobster James ''Whitey'' Bulger to a looming racketeering indictment, causing Bulger to flee. He remains at large.

The FBI has said informants are important to counterterrorism and criminal investigations.

Two informants helped lure Yemeni Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad and an aide to a meeting in which the cleric was secretly recorded promising to funnel money to Hamas and al-Qaida. Al-Moayad was sentenced to 75 years in prison. Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed received a 45-year sentence.

The case, however, was nearly derailed when one informant, who was the government's star witness, set himself on fire in Washington in what he later described as an attempt to get more money from the FBI, which paid him at least $100,000.

Mohamed Alanssi recovered in time for the trial.


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