SUN Hockey Pool

'I left a trail there'

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

NEW YORK -- It almost made an emotional Mess out of him again.

The announcement yesterday that St. Albert Trail will be renamed Mark Messier Trail left him fighting off his emotions in front of three dozen people who paid $11,111 each to be here with him this weekend.

Recovering, he made a joke about it.

"I left a trail there," Mark Messier laughed. "It's very well-named."

No. 11 was about to begin the first session of a four-day Mark Messier Leadership camp when his sister Mary-Kay, who was trying to keep it secret, informed her brother it was being announced back in Edmonton where his banner will be raised at the end of the month.

There was emotion as Messier informed some of his fantasy campers of the honour and tried to explain what it meant to him.

"It's the link between Edmonton and St. Albert," he said.

"When I was in Grade four, I think it was, we moved from Edmonton to 23 Brunswick Crescent in St. Albert. I played all my minor hockey in Edmonton. So I travelled that road just about every day. It brings back a million memories just thinking about it."

After the first leadership session, before taking the ice with old linemate Glenn Anderson and other teammates from his Edmonton Oiler and New York Ranger days (where your correspondent is spending Super Bowl weekend this year), Messier sat down and talked about St. Albert Trail.

I joked that he was getting a bigger road than Wayne Gretzky Drive.

"The size of the road doesn't mean anything, it's where the road is. It means so much to me. It has such special meaning," he said, on the verge of emotion again.

And then he started to laugh again.

"I don't know how many times I ran out of gas on the St. Albert Trail.

"I remember walking home once when I had a flat tire. I had a fender-bender on that road.

"I got stuck on the St. Albert Trail.

"In bad weather, once, I put my car in the ditch.

"I remember a lot of late nights and early mornings on that road."

Messier said the more he thinks about it, the more awesome an honour it is.

"To have a government-issued street name ... to call it an honour sounds like such an understatement. I don't throw that word around loosely. It's an amazing thing to have happen.

"It stands for a lot of great things. It stands for a lot of things for my dad Doug and my entire family. We're all thrilled with it in our own different ways.

"To me it stands for all the people, too. It stands for five Stanley Cups.

"My name is going to be on it, but I think a lot of people are going to be proud of it.

"To tell you the truth, it's a bit humbling. The thing that really puts it in perspective is that it's going to be Mark Messier Trail for a long, long time. It's not going to go away."

Announcing it now, he said, just builds up to the night his banner will be raised.

"It's like from now on is the last lead-up to it," he said of the occasion. "I haven't spent a lot of time there in a long time," he added, removing a lump in his throat with laughter again.

"It's going to be a good old- fashioned hoe-down."

Messier suggested it makes up for St. Albert's previous plan to sell the naming rights to the arena named in his honour.

"I know that a lot of people in St. Albert and in Edmonton were really disappointed in that. But I have to compliment the mayor of St. Albert who backed up to do what the people wanted. To admit you made a mistake and to do what the people want ... well, I'm really looking forward to going to St. Albert and doing a little reception as a way to say thank you to them."

Mary-Kay, who has been in Edmonton working with the Oilers on making arrangements during the season, said they had no idea where it was going.

"It started with talk about a presentation of the key to the city or something like that back when we were at ground zero. There were a lot of ideas, one thing and another. But this ... This is unbelievable. It's a little overwhelming.

"You can see Mark getting a little emotional today because of it. He's already starting to project. We'll be the blubbering Messiers by the time we get there."


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