Mark Messier

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:52 PM ET

It's crying time again.

The final stop on the Mark Messier tour of tears ends with his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday.

Maybe it won't be the same this time. Maybe sharing the moment with one of the greatest groups of players to go into the Hockey Hall together will make it completely different than his sob-a-thon banner raising nights in New York and Edmonton.

Maybe The Moose won't be the complete Mess, "the blubbering idiot'' as he described himself, when his banner was raised to the roof in New York in a ceremony which took 77 minutes and as many Kleenex tissues. That one began with No. 11 breaking down 14 words into the press conference the day before.

MORE TEARS

In Edmonton, Messier went through an outdoor ceremony, a press conference, a three-hour testimonial show where people paid $1,111 for seats and a backstage pass. His banner-raising the following night featured more tears, especially after he skated on the ice wearing his old Oilers uniform and carrying the Stanley Cup. He predictably broke down again, this time at centre ice looking at Glen Sather and Wayne Gretzky and telling them what they meant to him. That was a 37-minute ceremony.

"It's an emotion he has got and he's lucky he has got it,'' Sather said. "So many people can't express their feelings for other people.''

This weekend in Toronto will be the total testimonial to the six-time Stanley Cup winner, the only player in history to captain two different teams to the title, the No. 2 point producer in NHL history, a three-time Canada Cup champion, two-time Hart Trophy, two-time Lester B. Pearson Trophy and 1984 Conn Smythe Trophy winner. It's about the return of the man who earned the reputation as being the greatest leader in hockey and maybe all of sports history.

But it won't last 77 minutes, or even 37.

In fact, his total time to speak Monday night will be less time than it takes to run the 11 different Lay's potato chip commercials commemorating his 11 greatest moments.

Messier has four minutes.

"Trying to condense the last 26 years into 10 minutes on one night ..." Messier said before one of his bouts of bawling in New York.

How do you condense a 25-year career through four different decades in 50-some words to go on his plaque?

Maybe with some players, the numbers say most of it. But when the numbers are 1,756 games, 694 goals, 1,193 assists and 1,887 points and nobody mentions them much because of the six Stanley Cups and all the rest of it, the true measure of Messier was in the intangibles.

JUST LIKE GORDIE

"You look back and think you'd never see another guy like Gordie Howe. And then along came Mark." Gretzky said.

"Mark was like Gordie in so many ways.

"Mark and Gordie liked every single aspect of being an NHL player, from the road trips to the practices to the games ... every part of it. There wasn't one area they didn't love.

"The big thing with Mess was how incredibly unselfish he was. He cared about nothing other than winning. And he truly loved the game."

Craig MacTavish might have captured the essence of No. 11 better than anybody who ever played with the Edmonton native.

"He had it all. The character. The leadership. The intensity. The edge. Real skill. And gamesmanship. He knew exactly what was needed. He knew exactly what his team needed, when his team needed it and when to provide it.

"He had a way to make everybody feel like they were a winner. There hasn't been a better leader that I've ever seen. You couldn't play with more heart and soul than he did.

"Mark was a very intimidating player. If you took too much of a liberty with a teammate, he was going to get you. And he had a body for the Smithsonian.

"If I have a freeze-frame of him that isn't carrying a Stanley Cup, it's probably of him shooting from his signature pose on one skate. Far side low. Or if he overplayed it, short side high.''

Add the Kleenex and that was Mark Messier.

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THE MARK MESSIER FILE

- Six Stanley Cups, five in seven seasons in Edmonton and the first in 54 years in New York.

- First player to captain two different teams to a Stanley Cup.

- Three Canada Cup titles.

- Guaranteed win in Game 6 of 1993-94 Eastern Conference final vs New Jersey.

- Two Hart trophies.

- Two Lester B. Pearson trophies.

- Conn Smythe Trophy.

- Second highest point producer in NHL history.

- 1,756 games, 694 goals, 1,193 assists and 1,887 regular-season points.

- 236 games, 109 goals, 186 assists and 295 points in the playoffs.

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WHAT THEY SAID

"Mark has been recognized as the greatest leader in the history of hockey. It would be a grave mistake not to recognize him as the greatest leader in the history of sport."

-- Kevin Lowe

"Mark Messier was the most complete player ever to put on a pair of skates."

-- Mike Richter

"My favourite memory of Messier was when that Russian came around the net the wrong way in that Canada Cup and Messier just creamed him. What was the Russian's name? Kutyourfingeroff or something. Canada won that Canada Cup for one reason -- what Messier did to that Russian. If Messier was still playing now and did that they'd put him away for life for what he did to that Russian."

-- Don Cherry

"Everybody talks about when Mess got that look in his eye. That stare or whatever. A lot of who Mess was actually was his body language. Head up. Proud. And always more than words. Actions.''

-- Adam Graves


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