'Just perfect'

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

To many, the night was soiled and spoiled by the Edmonton Oilers trade of Ryan Smyth earlier in the day.

But not to Mark Messier.

"It was just perfect, I think."

No. 11 was raised to the rafters here last night with a distant replay as Messier skated out from the ice fog carrying the Stanley Cup over his head like he did the following fall after he captained the Oilers to their last championship in 1990.

"To see the players on the ice, to hear the words from Craig MacTavish. To have the Stanley Cup here. It was just perfect."

Messier said the memory-maker, the freeze frame, of his carrying the Cup on the ice was a no-brainer.

"That was easy for everybody," he said of the decision, made weeks ago.

Messier brought his own Kleenex for this one and had tears in his eyes when his former team-mates, particularly Wayne Gretzky and coach Glen Sather were introduced.

SATHER, GRETZKY

"I came prepared. I didn't take any chances," he told the crowd when it came time to speak to the fans.

It was when he went to thank Sather and Gretzky that he needed to compose himself.

"Without Glen, none of us would have been here today," said Messier.

"Tonight would not have been the same without Wayne being here.

"Wayne was our leader. He was our inspiration. He was the guy we leaned on and he never let us down and never put himself above anybody."

While he broke down, as expected, it wasn't anywhere near as often as he did at his press conference and banner raising in New York nor at his gala the night before at the Winspear Centre.

"They cut me short," he laughed of the 37-minute ceremony.

The ceremonies last year for his banner-raising in New York lasted 77 minutes.

Many comments from Messier were included on a video presentation prior to his appearance from the fog carrying the Cup.

Messier, who was a major Mess talking about his mom and dad the night before and who choked up talking about Mark Messier Trail to his hometown of St. Albert during the ceremonies at Winston Churchill Square earlier Monday, also got teary-eyed talking about Edmonton.

"One of the reasons that made it so special to play here was that I was born and raised here.

"To be honoured this way, standing down here, is a humbling experience," he told the crowd.

He said his banner being raised to the rafters was "a symbol" of all the people in his life and in the community of a born-and-raised homegrown hockey player and person.

"You only come from one place and this is where I came from and who I am,'' he said, answering a question from a

New York writer in a press conference between the first and second periods.

He held his year-old son Douglas Paul, wearing a tiny Oiler jersey, during the ceremonies and when his banner was raised, bouncing his son up and down and wearing his famous great grin on his face as he watched No. 11 raised to the roof.

'GREATEST LEADER'

Replacing Kevin Lowe, who made the Smyth deal earlier in the day and did not want to be on the ice to bring on the boos, MacTavish called Messier "the greatest leader the sport has ever produced."

MacTavish told Messier what he meant to everybody.

"You were an inspiration. When we needed something good to happen to the team, you scored a goal or an assist or a well-placed elbow.

"You'll be the only player wearing No. 11 in Oilers history," added MacTavish.

"Watching you carry the Cup brought back a million memories."

MacTavish went out of his way to say how much it meant to everybody "to have Glen Sather back where he belongs at Rexall Place."

The Oilers played the game in vintage orange and blue jersey's from the Messier era. They didn't look much like those old Oilers.


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