Hradek writes about his memories of Mess, but as always with the ESPN columnist he comes up short. Here is my take on the Moose and what he meant to me as an (ex) Calgarian.
- The off-wing wrist shot to the far corner. If Mess had a signature move, this was it - cruise down the wing and pick the far post. Everytime. It was like he was in a video game.
- Joel Otto. Calgary had one answer and one answer only to the Moose. Stick Otto on him. Otto could skate well enough to keep up, was strong enough not to get bullied, was powerful enough to win draws against hin, and was tough enough to go to toe-to-toe with the Moose in a donnybrook when necessary. Their battles became legendary for Calgarians.
- The Elbow. On no less than two occasions (more likely 202) Mess tossed elbows that were vicious to the point of criminal. In the Canada Cup (82 I believe) he used this weapon to open a massive cut on a russian forwards face - all but ending his effectiveness in the tourney. Against Calgary (again) in the playoffs, his cheapshot elbow to the cranium of Jamie Macoun resulted in Macoun being 'out on his feet' - the footage of the Flames defender skating lopsidedly to the bench knees buckling like overcooked pasta haunts us Flames fans still.
- Messier vs. Gretzky. Flames fans grudgingly respected the Great One. He may have been an Oiler but even we Calgarians could see he was beyond special in terms of his talent - if anything we knew were just jealous that he was an Oiler.
But we HATED Messier. HATED HATED HATED HATED him. Only Glenn Anderson brought out more ire from Flames fans than the Moose did. That level of antipathy made for the BEST hockey games ever. Flames vs. Oilers was a hate-on of serious dimmensions, with the entire province splitting over who to cheer for. Messier (and Co.) contributed to what is without a doubt the greatest hockey rivallry in the NHL.
- After the Rangers first go-round. It seemed that the last 7 years have been more about Messier wanting to take his run at immortality in the record books than winning. His decision to go to Vancouver was horrible - for both him and Vancouver. His return to the Rangers all but ensured that they would lack chemistry in the dressing room, and that Lindros and others would never be allowed to flourish as leaders still possessing the talent and skill to compete at an all-star level. He was playing out the string. For a warrior like him, it just didn't seem right.