SUN Hockey Pool

Moose party!

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

The homecoming is set.

And the Edmonton Oilers plan on making it a special one for Mark Messier.

"We want to give Mark an opportunity to tell the story of growing up in this community, playing his minor hockey here and going on to play in the National Hockey League," said Oilers president and CEO Patrick LaForge. "We also wanted to give him a chance to say 'thank you' to his fans in Edmonton."

Messier's return includes a civic ceremony at City Hall on Feb. 26 and a charity gala in his honour that night at the Winspear Centre. The following evening the Oilers will retire Messier's number in a pre-game ceremony prior to hosting Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes.

"We talked to Mark and his family about how can we do it the Edmonton way," LaForge said. "In New York, they never really got an opportunity to get out into the community and say 'thank you' to people.

"In New York, that's probably not really possible, but in Edmonton it is."

Messier will be the sixth Oiler to have his number retired. His No. 11 will go up alongside Al Hamilton, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey - all of whom are expected to be in attendance.

"When we did Wayne Gretzky's, it was big and then used the same template for the others," said Allan Watt, the Oilers vice-president of communications and broadcasting.

"The fans really embrace having a ceremony at City Hall. But we felt, particularly after Paul Coffey, that we didn't tag all the bases, that we could have done something bigger. So we put that in the wheel house."

Tickets for the gala go for $350. They'll go on sale Feb. 1 at the Winspear box office.

The event features a number of former Oilers and will be hosted by Kelly Hrudey of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

"At the end of the day, if you just lined those former Oilers all up, you'd still have a pretty good show," Watt said. "I think Kelly Hrudey will do a good job."

Proceeds from the event will go to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and the Alberta Lung Association - a charity Messier was personally involved with during his Oiler days.

The Oilers expect to sell 1,500 tickets to the event.

"It's one thing to announce it and say you're going to do it and it's another to then go out and do it," Watt said. "But it'll be fun. We're looking forward to it."


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