Messier returns to Rangers as Sather assistant

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Four years after he hung up his skates, Mark Messier's second career is beginning on Broadway.

The captain of the 1994 Stanley Cup champion Rangers, who ended his extraordinary NHL career in September 2005, was named a special assistant to president and general manager Glen Sather yesterday.

In February 2007, Messier said publicly that he was discussing a front-office job with the club, although Sather - who served as either coach or general manager of the Edmonton Oilers when Messier won five Cups - denied that he was ready to step down, saying that Messier would be better served by working his way up the ladder.

Now the timing is right for Messier, 48, and don't dismiss the possibility that he will emerge as the next GM if Sather, 65, eventually steps aside and remains president of the franchise.

"I kind of felt that five years would give me enough of a chance to see the kids grow," Messier said in a phone interview last night, referring to his last NHL season in 2004. "So now that Glen has invited me, I'm going in with an open mind . . . I'll be pulling the oars. There's really nothing solid, but I'm all in. I'll be at Traverse City [a Michigan prospects tournament in early September] and then training camp.''

Messier - whose No. 11 was retired and raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters Jan. 12, 2006 - initially will familiarize himself with the organization, starting with Rangers prospects and minor-leaguers.

His 25 years' experience in the league should be beneficial to both younger players and older players, Messier believes, "because all are faced with the same challenge, to get to the same place, to be the best they can be."

Messier repeated that coaching "has not been and is not my focus. I've learned to 'never say never,' but at this time, I want to learn the business."

Messier's appointment was first reported by the New York Post.

Fifth on the Rangers' all-time scoring list with 691 points, Messier is almost deified by former teammates for his leadership qualities. The Edmonton native played for the Rangers from 1991-97 and from 2000-04, and now seems to be following the path of Hall of Fame contemporaries Steve Yzerman and Al MacInnis, who are vice presidents of their former teams, the Red Wings and Blues.

The Rangers - who, like Newsday, are owned by Cablevision - Sunday reached agreement with another veteran, although Vinny Prospal is still skating. Prospal, 34, a free-agent left wing who played for coach John Tortorella with Tampa Bay, agreed to a one-year deal worth about $1.1 million.

The Czech winger scored 33 goals in 2007-08 and 19 last year with Tampa in the first season of a four-year, $14-million contract. The 6-2, 194-pound Prospal was bought out of the final three years July 28.

Prospal conceivably could play on a line with right wing Marian Gaborik, although one key player from last season, restricted free agent Brandon Dubinsky, remains unsigned. Unless Dubinsky - who rejected a one-year qualifying offer of $698,500 - is traded, Prospal is expected to compete for the role of No. 1 center at camp, which begins Sept. 12.

Subscribe to Newsday’s sports newsletter for stories, photos and videos about your favorite New York teams plus national sports news and events.

You also may be interested in: