Bypassed Mark Messier leaves Rangers
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Mark Messier's No. 11 hangs in the rafters at Madison Square Garden, but The Captain no longer is part of the Rangers' organization.
Two weeks after he was passed over for the head-coaching job, Messier resigned his post as special assistant to president and general manager Glen Sather after four years to help develop the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, a $275-million project in the Bronx.
Sather said Thursday that he thought his selection of the far more experienced Alain Vigneault rather than the Hall of Famer played a role in Messier's resignation.
"I think that's part of his decision," Sather said after a meeting of the NHL's Board of Governors. "But we all have to live our own lives the way we decide to do it."
Messier, 52, denied that the choice of Vigneault was the reason for his departure.
"Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth," Messier said in a statement. "I completely respect the decision that was made and for all the reasons it was made. I harbor no hard feelings toward Glen or the Rangers. This is a personal choice I am making to create a program in the New York area that will give our children more choices and opportunities in the future. I wish the Rangers nothing but the best in the future."
Sather, who interviewed four candidates on the phone and two -- Messier and Vigneault -- in person, has said that Messier was disappointed in the decision.
"He's decided to do something else in his life," said Sather, who played hockey with Messier's father and has known Mark since he was a youngster. "He'll be doing what he wants to do best, which is being involved in business. We parted on good terms. If Mark decides to be a coach, he'll be great at it. He just needs to get a little time behind the bench."
Messier has six Stanley Cup rings and led the Rangers to the Cup in 1993-94, but his coaching experience is limited to two international tournaments.
Two years ago, Messier discussed a coaching job in Edmonton, where he spent the first part of his record-setting career. But he and his family wanted to stay in New York.
It seemed clear that Messier would not be part of Vigneault's staff when the new head coach declared last Friday that he wants assistant coaches with NHL experience. He might add former Canucks assistant Newell Brown and former head coach Scott Arneil to his staff.
"Mark is an icon in the NHL, and if he ever wants to return, I'm sure plenty of clubs will want him," said former Red Wing and Ranger Brendan Shanahan, who is the NHL's senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations.
Notes & quotes: A decision on whether to use a compliance buyout on the remainder of center Brad Richards' contract -- which must be done before July 4 -- is coming "shortly," Sather said. If executed, it would cost $24 million but would remove Richards' $6.7- million annual cap hit for the next seven years . . . Face-to-face negotiations with Henrik Lundqvist's agent, Don Meehan, on a long-term contract extension were expected to begin Thursday night, Sather said.
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