Messier doesn't feel the itch

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

When you stand next to Mark Messier, you get the feeling that the man with six Stanley Cup rings could still easily be earning his living by playing in the NHL.

But alas, Messier doesn't need the money or the stress and he's happy with the way things have gone in the first few years of life after hockey.

"When I retired, I said I had to retire because I had run out of speeches," said Messier, who was in town yesterday for a COLD-FX promotion saluting hockey moms and was on hand for last night's NHL pre-season tilt between the Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames. "I miss it, but I don't wish I was out there and for me, that's a good thing. If I was missing it and wishing I was out there while I was watching, I would be very unsettled right now. And I don't feel that at all.

"I don't feel an itch to be playing. I played 26 years and I was lucky enough to have a lot of success and basically leave the game with a lot of good health. My priorities have changed. At one point in my life, winning was the only thing that mattered and that kind of waned, so I knew it was time to retire."

When the subject of a possible return to the NHL -- as either a coach or in management -- is broached, Messier's eyes immediately light up.

"It's definitely something that when I retired, I felt that at some point I would get back into the game because hockey is what I know best," said Messier. "I thought it was important that after playing 26 years professionally that I had a chance to regroup and do some things I hadn't done in a long time. I had started a young family just before I was retiring, so the last four years have been an incredible experience for me to be home with my kids as they're growing up.

"At some point, when the opportunity is right I'd love to get back in but I can't really put a timetable on it. It has to be the right fit. When it does, I would relish the opportunity to play a role in winning a championship."

All of this talk about Messier returning to the highest level of the game got me to thinking and during a one-on-one interview early yesterday afternoon, I asked the man affectionately known as The Moose, if he'd like to be involved in some capacity with Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

"Absolutely, there's no question about it," said Messier. "I didn't have the opportunity to play in an Olympics and if I had one regret, that probably would be it.

"Any opportunity to be involved with that would be something I'd be very interested in, for sure."

We can't help but think Messier would make a great fit alongside the likes of Steve Yzerman and company as Canada goes for gold on home soil.

Bob Nicholson, don't hesitate to make the call.

As for the usual questions about whether or not Winnipeg could one day return to the NHL fold, Messier gave a heartfelt answer.

"Hopefully, one day we can see the NHL back here," said Messier, who was in Winnipeg for the first time since the Jets departed for the desert. "I know how much I loved playing here and how much people love their hockey here.

"Let's cross our fingers."


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