SUN Hockey Pool

Even foes pay tribute

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:54 PM ET

A lot of Mark Messier's old friends have been singing his praises over the last few days, but you know you were something special when bitter enemies get in line to pay tribute.

Former Calgary Flames forwards Tim Hunter and Gary Roberts, who waged more than their share of wars against Messier's Oilers, admit there wasn't a better big- game player than the Moose.

"We played some really good games, tough games, and Messier was always one of those guys who was a factor in every game," remarked Roberts.

"Whether it was as a physical presence or scoring, he was one of the best.

"He always had that way about him, you always knew he was going to be in your face or be on the score sheet.

"At the end of the night you knew that, in some way, Mark Messier was going to be a factor at the end of the game. That's why he was such a great player for so long."

Hunter, who will forever have a place on Edmonton's most hated list, says there weren't many tougher men to play against.

"He always seemed to rise to the next level when the team needed it," said Hunter, now a San Jose Sharks assistant.

"He was their real leader. Emotionally and physically. He came up with the big plays, or a good hard check.

"He'd run over somebody when he needed to.

"And they definitely fed off his force and the way he played."

Messier's gamesmanship, says Hunter, made him all the more difficult.

"He was a bright hockey player.

"He knew the right time and the right place to do things. He always knew just the right time in a game when they needed leadership."


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