Mark Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup champion and esteemed Hall of Famer, is revered as one of the greatest NHL players of all time. His accomplishments with Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers have cemented his legacy as a beloved figure. However, Vancouver Canucks are a team that would rather forget Messier's era entirely.
Following his departure from the Rangers after the 1996-97 season, Mark Messier joined the Canucks on a multi-year deal. Yet, from the very beginning, it seemed destined to be a tumultuous period. The controversy commenced with what many fans perceived as Messier stealing the captaincy from the cherished Trevor Linden, who was subsequently traded to New York Islanders.
However, it was Messier's demand to wear jersey number 11 that further fueled the fire. The number had been unofficially retired by the Canucks in honor of the late Wayne Maki, who tragically lost his battle with brain cancer in 1974. Maki's family and Canucks supporters were understandably dismayed by Messier's insistence on donning the retired number, as it appeared to disregard the tribute to Maki's memory.
To compound matters, Messier also requested a phantom ownership stake in the organization, which eventually led to a legal dispute between him and the Canucks, even two decades later.
Looking back, Mark Messier's time with the Canucks is remembered as a period of disappointment and controversy. The decision to take the captaincy from Linden, wear the retired jersey number, and make ownership demands left a lasting negative impression on the franchise and its fans.
More on Mark Messier's professional hockey career
The Canadian ice hockey centre is regarded as one of the greatest players in NHL history. With a career spanning 25 years, he played for Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks. He won two Hart Trophies, was a Conn Smythe winner, and led his teams to six Stanley Cup championships.
Known for his leadership skills, Messier captained both the Oilers and Rangers to Stanley Cup victories, ending a long drought for the latter. He earned the nickname "The Messiah" for his pivotal role in the Rangers' triumph. Messier's impact extended beyond his playing career as he served as a special assistant to the president and general manager of the Rangers.
In recognition of his contributions to hockey, Mark Messier was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 and named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players" in 2017. Messier was also honored with the Order of Canada for his leadership and encouragement of youth in the sport.