We Will Win Tonight
“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…” With these words, LeBron James shocked not only the basketball world, but the sports universe as a whole.
Now, ‘heads, you might be asking yourselves what this has to do with the Rangers. Allow me to clarify things for you. In the months and weeks leading up to LeBron’s “Decision,” there was rampant speculation by the media as to where LeBron would choose to play. Many reasons were bandied about ranging from money, loyalty, championships and friendship, to even the big stage of New York, but the one factor Lebron should have focused on was the perception of his legacy. And if ever there was a poster boy for the influence of that perception, Mark Messier is it.
Messier won five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, one following the departure of Gretzky and the preceding four while shouldering the burden of leadership, allowing Gretzky to mature into the legendary player he became. However, Messier is remembered in the sports world for winning a mere single Stanley Cup with the Rangers and is known as the greatest leader the NHL has seen, being the only player to captain two different franchises to a Stanley Cup. Why? Because it occurred in New York and it ended the Rangers’ 54-year drought without a Cup.
How did Messier become the sole proprietor of the 1994 Stanley Cup when the Rangers had other great players on that team, including Conn Smythe-winner Brian Leetch? The answer is simple: Messier stepped up on the biggest stage — like Joe Namath did with the Jets — guaranteeing victory when the Rangers needed it the most and then living up to his word by fulfilling that promise with a hat trick in the decisive third period.
Had Mess stayed in Edmonton, it is likely that he would be beloved in Canada but largely unnoticed in the USA. However, because his success was attained in the biggest city in the world, that one Cup coupled with “The Guarantee” changed the ultimate perception of Messier’s legacy. With his leadership and performance in that fateful spring of ’94, Messier became the King of New York, something he might have had to abdicate had LeBron chosen the Knicks and ended their long drought.
It is the prestige of Messier’s legacy that the current Rangers need to use to their advantage. We have been hearing that Messier is being groomed to take over the Rangers’ general manager job. This transition needs to be expedited with the utmost alacrity. While Messier’s promotion would provide a huge upgrade in the competence department, it would also bring something else the Rangers have lacked since Messier retired … cachet. Many Knicks fans were recently horrified to hear that Isiah Thomas was used in an unsuccessful final attempt to convince LeBron to join the Knicks. What they failed to realize is, Isiah — inexplicably, given his track record — has cachet with the younger players in the NBA. Those players — whether we fans agree with this assessment or not — look up to him as a leader, father figure and role model. It is this quality that Messier can bring to the Rangers when attempting to lure players to New York.
What player would not want to make a mark in New York when being courted by the man who exemplified how the city treats a conquering hero? Who better to teach leadership to the young, up and coming Rangers than the man the NHL named their Mark Messier Leadership Award after? With the media relegating the Rangers to non-contender status in the near future and the fans tiring of management and ownership’s ineffectiveness, who better to rise again to lead the Rangers in an attempt to restore relevance and respect to their franchise in a city dominated by baseball, football and basketball, than the Captain himself?
While LeBron may be remembered for taking his talents to South Beach, Messier will forever be known not only for “I guarantee we’ll win tonight” but for actually making it happen! If Messier can rejuvenate the hopes of Rangers fans and produce another Stanley Cup for this franchise, his status would be elevated beyond a king, to a god. If anyone could live up to such lofty expectations, Messier can.
Who knows, maybe Messier can lure the Jaromir back! :)