You couldn't stop Mark Messier, you could only hope to contain him. And when it comes to honoring Messier, you can't do it in a day.
Edmonton native Mark Messier will once again get to see his No. 11 raised to the rafters, this time at Rexall Place.
So, the Oilers have scheduled two days of ceremonies to commemorate the Feb. 27 retirement of Mess' No. 11.
“The (pre-game) ceremonies can get long and arduous as they were with Stevie Y (Steve Yzerman)” Oilers President Patrick LaForge told reporters. Yzerman’s No. 19 jersey was retired Jan. 2 in a 90-minute ceremony prior to the Detroit Red Wings’ game against the Anaheim Ducks. “There was no opportunity for fans there to reach out to Stevie, and we want to do that here and we want to do it with Mark. He’s a native son and an Edmonton boy and he wants this.”
On Feb. 26, Edmonton's Churchill Square will host a fan tribute. That night, the Winspear Centre concert hall will host a charity fundraiser with former Oiler stars like GM Kevin Lowe, Hall of Famer Paul Coffey and Glenn Anderson telling tall tales about "Moose."
The Oilers will face Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 27, but Gretzky won't be able to make the tall tale session. He will participate in the on-ice ceremonies the next night though.
"I was born and raised in Edmonton and spent the first 12 years of my NHL career playing for the Oilers," Messier said in a statement. "Having my number raised to the rafters of Rexall Place, where we accomplished so much as a team and I made so many lifelong friends, is truly an honour."
LaForge said some kind of lasting tribute is in the works for Messier, but wouldn’t be more specific. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, with LaForge for the announcement, also wouldn’t comment.
The New York Rangers retired his jersey just over a year ago on Jan. 12 in a ceremony that included members of the ‘94 Stanley Cup team. Messier retired in September 2005 as the second-leading scorer in league history, behind only Gretzky, with 1,887 points (694 goals and 1,193 assists).
Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.