My life after hockey

TERRY JONES, NEW YORK

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

No. 11 now owns a hotel in the Bahamas. It has 11 rooms.

Each room has the name of one of the grandchildren of his parents Doug and Mary Jean. They have 11 grandchildren.

Life after hockey and the business of being Mark Messier is a many-splendoured thing.

The business of being Mark Messier hasn't stopped now that his career has come to a conclusion, and the greatest leader in the history of hockey heads to Edmonton at the end of the month to watch his number raised to the rafters.

It was back in the '80s when he declared to this columnist his desire and determination to play in four different decades - to make it to the 2000s.

He did. He played 25 years in the league.

Back then you had to figure they'd have to rip the uniform off his back and that life after hockey would be more difficult for him than any of his glory gang Edmonton Oilers teammates, who won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons.

"I thought that, too. But it's not as much as I thought," said former Oilers and Rangers teammate Jeff Beukeboom.

"He's showing that he's a lot deeper and a lot more of a person than everybody thought."

Just when you'd think it would all be coming apart for Messier, he seems to be more together than ever before - and that's amazingly together.

"The thing is, I never tied my identity to the game," said Messier. "I was able to separate who I was as a person and who I was as the hockey player wearing the uniform.

"In what turned out to be my last year, (significant other) Kim and I had our first child and I found myself thinking I could be at home playing with my kid. That whole season my perspective changed.

"Then the lockout came and we had our second child. The lockout made it easier because I didn't have to make a decision. It was a tough thing to do to announce the decision, but ..."

If there hadn't been a lockout ...

"I think the lockout ended up being a blessing for Mark," said his dad, Doug.

"He could have played if there had been a season instead of the lockout. But suddenly he was off the ice, had two little children including a brand-new baby. And he's been busy."

He has a young family now, a hotel, more endorsements now than when he was playing, the Mark Messier leadership camp, which I was invited to experience last weekend, and a complete understanding of who he is and where he wants to go from here. And that includes the idea of being the next general manager of the New York Rangers.

"I think part of it is he has so much fulfilment," says sister and business manager Mary-Kay.

"When he played he was so single-focused. It all involved the game. It made it a real challenge for me to deal with him in the business world. But now he's embraced it. And now he has a partner in life and two young children. His life has changed.

"When you look at him, he's achieved so much as an athlete and a leader. He's now looking at where he came from with a different perspective."

Messier says as he looks towards his guaranteed-to-be emotional-night in Edmonton, he looks back at it all and feels complete with the journey.

"One thing I definitely learned playing with Wayne Gretzky in those early days in Edmonton was his belief that everything came from hockey," said Messier.

"I decided to be 100% committed to hockey. Everything away from hockey I quickly dropped. Anything that I felt would take away from the game, I chose not to do.

"As I got older, more opportunities started to come, but I was real careful in what I chose to do and who to do it with. I got involved with good people and did it mostly in the summer when it didn't distract me away from the game.

"Some people may say I left a lot of money on the table. You could look at it that way. But I kept an eye on the idea that it made me more successful by focusing on playing hockey."


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