Dressed in a vintage Oilers uniform, Mark Messier skated onto the ice at Rexall Place in full equipment and hoisted the Stanley Cup for a crowd that really needed something to cheer about on Tuesday night.
Overshadowed by the departure of the current heart and soul of the Oilers, Ryan Smyth, the Edmonton Oilers retired Mark Messier's No. 11 on Tuesday night. The hometown hero was born and raised in Edmonton, and was the emotional leader of the Oilers dynasty that capture five Stanley Cups. He is the only player in the Oilers NHL history to wear No. 11.
Though he has now embraced New York as his adopted home, Oilers fans were eager to say thank you. The 40 minute tribute at center ice of the site of so many of his greatest games concluded a weekend of tributes for Messier. Other celebrations included a street naming, a civic celebration, and a gala evening with old friends and teammates. Messier was teary eyed more than once in the past few days, to no one's surprise.
It is unfortunate that Messier's jersey retirement had to happen on NHL trade deadline day, where the chances of being overshadowed were likely even without the unexpected Ryan Smyth blockbuster. Eric Duhatschek speculated that the timing of the retirement ceremony was "curious," leaving even Messier singing Suspicious Minds.
George Johnson at ESPN.com comments on the frequency of jersey retirements this season, and offers his list of 10 more players who deserve the honour. It's hard to argue against any of these candidates, espcially the long overdue Red Kelly in Detroit.