SUN Hockey Pool

Mark his words, Glen

Former Edmonton Oiler Mark Messier speaks at a press conference via video feed at Rexall Place...

Former Edmonton Oiler Mark Messier speaks at a press conference via video feed at Rexall Place Wednesday where it was announced that his jersey will be retired Feb. 27. (Edmonton Sun/David Bloom)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Will Mark Messier bring Glen Sather and the Edmonton Oilers back together again?

It's long been believed that there's bad blood there, particularly with ownership group chairman Cal Nichols since Sather left the Oilers to run the New York Rangers.

But Messier made an impassioned plea for Sather to be there Feb. 27, the date for his Edmonton banner raising when Wayne Gretzky brings his Phoenix Coyotes to town.

"I certainly hope he's there," said Messier on a video press conference hook-up.

"Glen has been a mentor of mine since the time I came into the league until the time my career ended," he said.

"I couldn't imagine this without Glen."

And Sather, while he won't come right out and say he'll come, says it will be hard to say no if invited.

"Who wouldn't want to be there?" Sather told the Sun from Florida.

"It'll be a great event. It'll be a great night for Mark. I'd certainly like to be part of anything like that."

It is time. The Rangers should be here for this game but in case you haven't noticed the two teams don't play this year and haven't been here since Jan. 2, 2002.

CLOSE BOND

GM Kevin Lowe has kept a close relationship with Sather and New York, where Messier, Lowe and a whole group of ex-Oilers won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994. They've done deals. And Sather scheduled Messier's New York banner-raising with the Oilers in town for their game against the Rangers last year.

Sather, whom this columnist believes should have his own banner-raising in the building with GM instead of a 99 or 11 on the banner, said he's actually been back in the building he's avoided since leaving the Oilers.

"I was there this fall when Phoenix played. I didn't sit in the press box ... but I was there. I don't actually have any problem coming. At the board of governors meetings here I sat beside Cal and Patrick LaForge."

One problem with this day: Feb. 27 is trade deadline day in the NHL.

Lowe was asked if Messier's night on deadline day would add a component? "No, we're not going to trade for him," he laughed of Messier.

That would make it special, wouldn't it? Messier traded to Edmonton to play one last game as an Oiler?

"Maybe I'll invite him to come over," said Lowe of Messier spending deadline morning at his office while he does a deal.

Maybe Sather can work out of the Oilers office and do a deal with the Oilers to, er, Mark the occasion. Whatever, it IS going to be an occasion.

"We're breaking tradition by putting his banner up before he goes into the Hall of Fame, but we're kind of counting on that happening," said CEO LaForge.

Messier laughed at the suggestion that there will be so many tears on the ice they won't need a Zamboni. "It'll be very emotional," said the man who was a "Mess" in more ways than one at his No. 11 event in New York.

"To have been born and raised in Edmonton and to have won five Stanley Cups and have been part of an unbelievable dynasty ..."

EMOTIONAL NIGHT

You know those words aren't going to come out as easily in front of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey as his banner goes up to join the ones with their names and numbers.

One thing for sure. It will not be a long, drawn-out 70-minute deal like the one in New York. They'll try to keep it between the 20-minute celebration for Gretzky and the 14-minute ceremonies for the others.

"We should probably have had another Heritage Classic," said LaForge. "There will certainly be a nice big outdoor event to let fans get close to him. That's what he wants to do."

Will a street be named after Messier to match Wayne Gretzky Drive? Will hometown St. Albert make up for trying to sell the name of an arena which currently carries his name?

Certainly something major like that is a must. I've always felt the perfect honour would be renaming St. Albert Trail, which joins Edmonton and the bedroom community where Messier was raised.

Anything less than something of that magnitude is going to be a major disappointment. As Lowe put it at the press conference: "He's the greatest hockey player there has ever been to come out of this city."


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