Messier in his element

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

Mark Messier has his own favourite spot to the watch the NHL playoffs.

It's at his parents place in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

"We all seem to kind of migrate to my mom and dad's place over here and sit and watch some hockey," said Messier yesterday in an interview with the Sun. "We always put some steaks on the barbeque and do the same things we did 40 years ago."

Now well into his retirement, the former Edmonton Oiler can sit back, relax, drink a cold beverage and enjoy the playoffs like a regular hockey fan.

It's something he used to do during his pre-NHL days - minus the cold alcoholic beverage of course.

"It's fun for me to watch because I know what entails playing for a whole year leading up to the Stanley Cup playoffs and what's at stake for these players," Messier said. "When you are one of these teams playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the world basically stops around you and the only thing you focus on is those particular games.

"That's what's great about it."

17 PLAYOFF CAMPAIGNS

In his 25 NHL seasons, Messier took part in the Stanley Cup playoffs 17 times. He won six Cups - five with the Oilers and one with the New York Rangers. He also claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1984.

This spring, Messier and the Stanley Cup are being reunited in a contest sponsored in part by CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

The Bring Home the Stanley Cup event has Messier delivering hockey's biggest prize to a fan's home for a playoff party.

"I know from experience what the cup means to people in Canada and in parts of the United States," he said.

"Whether we've brought it to a hospital or a school or shown it to elderly people that have watched the Stanley Cup playoffs for 50 years it has a big effect on them."

Contestants enter by submitting a video or photo describing how they watch the playoffs.

HUGE PRIZE

Along with having Messier and Stanley at their house, the winner will get his own hockey shrine complete with a new high-definition TV, a pair of leather recliners and, or course, a large supply of Pepsi and Lay's potato chips - co-sponsors of the contest.

"It's a great way in my mind to celebrate the game for the fans and a great opportunity for a fan to have a party at his house," said Messier. "There have been some really interesting entries.

"I can remember ourselves as kids getting ready on a Saturday night to watch Hockey Night in Canada. I know the rituals are there, everybody's got their jerseys on and we're seeing some pretty funny stuff. It's a great time of year - the Stanley Cup finals - and to see the passion they have when they send the tapes in, it's awesome."

Like any other hockey fan, Messier also had his predictions heading into the first round of the playoffs.

"I picked the Rangers to win, but I didn't expect them to win in four straight," Messier said. "I think that was a surprise. I thought they would have a much more difficult time with the Atlanta forwards, but they did a great job shutting them down."

As the number of teams dwindle and the finals approach, Messier expects there to be more surprises.

"It's so hard to pick any winners now," he said. "All 16 teams that make it to the playoffs are really good teams and anybody can beat anybody. Now going into the second round it's even harder."


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