Thursday, October 23, 2014
It was on this date in 1998 that Mark Messier, new to the Vancouver Canucks, scored his 600th NHL goal in a 5-0 win over the Florida Panthers, becoming a member of an exclusive club, as he was only the eighth player to ever reach 600 goals.
Messier had just joined the Canucks after six seasons in Manhattan with the New York Rangers, having famously won the Stanley Cup in 1994 to go along with the five he won as an Edmonton Oiler.
Messier, the only player to have captained two teams to the Stanley Cup, signed a three-year contract worth up to $20 million and was brought in with the intent that he would lead the Canucks to their first championship.
"Hopefully I can come in here and help out in any way that I can to bring Canada, bring Vancouver, what they're really hoping for - the Stanley Cup," Messier said when he was introduced as a Canuck. "I can't wait to get started."
It was a tall order for the first season, as the Canucks had failed to qualify for the playoffs the year before with a sub .500 record of 35-40-7 and were not selling out games either.
Vancouver beat the Rangers, Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings for Messier's services. It broke up the reunited Messier/Wayne Gretzky pairing that lasted only one season in New York.
Messier was made captain of the Canucks before ever playing in a game in Vancouver. His return to New York was an emotional event, as the Rangers played a tribute video to Messier on the scoreboard, which caused many, including the always emotional Messier, to shed tears. He would go on to score a goal for Vancouver later in the game, drawing applause from the fans in New York.
His final point total his first season in Vancouver was a lackluster 60 points in all 82 games. The next two seasons were curtailed by injuries, limiting him to 59 and 66 games with his point totals of just 48 and 54 suffering as a result.
The Canucks would finish the 1997-98 season with a 25-43-14 record for 64 points in the standings, worse than the previous season's 77, for last in the seven team Pacific Division as well as the Western Conference, despite the addition of Messier (60 points) and the presence of Pavel Bure (90 pts.), Alexander Mogilny (45 pts.) and Markus Naslund (34 pts.). The season included losing streaks of both ten and seven games and no more than three consecutive wins. The highlight of the Canucks season would have to be hosting the 1998 NHL All-Star Game in January.
1998-99 would turn out worse for Vancouver. Their record of 23-47-12 would net them just 58 points this time, again finishing in last place, only now in the four team Northwest Division, and next to last league wide. Coach Mike Keenan was fired midway through the season and replaced with Marc Crawford. Additionally, high scoring superstar Bure was holding out and eventually traded to Florida. The Canucks were able to make a trade for an additional high draft pick to go along with their original high pick as a result of their poor finish and draft both Daniel and Henrik Sedin with their second and third overall choices.
The following season of 1999-00 would see the Canucks in a fight for a playoff spot all season long, but fall short once again when they were eliminated in the second to last game, denying Messier the opportunity to play in even a single playoff game as a Vancouver Canuck, the entire reason he was brought to Vancouver in the first place. Their record of 30-29-15 for 83 points was tenth in the conference, four back of a playoff spot.
At the conclusion of his third season in Vancouver, Messier was once again a free agent and chose to return to New York and the Rangers. While in Vancouver he would average just 69 games, 12 goals, 37 assists and 54 points a season. The 162 points he would score in three years as a Canuck were only 33 more than he scored in 1989-90 in Edmonton alone.
Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Vancouver Canucks Mark Messier home jersey as worn during his first ever game as a Canuck. This jersey features not only the 1998 NHL All-Star Game patch, but the addition of the Game ONe '97 patch worn by the Canucks and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim when they opened the season in Toyko, Japan in advance of the first NHL participation in the Olympics, which was to be held five months later in Nagano, Japan.
The Canucks would prevail in the game 3-2 in front of a sold out crowed of 10,500. Messier would score a power play goal at 11:42 of the second period on a tap-in from from Naslund to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead at the time. He would miss the third period with a leg injury after a collision late in the second.
Messier extolling the virtues of the snack foods. He's actually quite comfortable in front of the camera, isn't he?
Finally, while known for his leadership and scoring capabilities, Messier was also capable of dropping the gloves when needed.