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Messier's 'announcement' a surprising blunder

2/12/2007 - NHL

AROUND THE RINK

By Scott Burnside, ESPN.com


So, Mark Messier wakes up one day, eats a bag of popular brand-name chips, downs a couple of cold medication pills and thinks, "Hey, you know what? I should be the general manager of the New York Rangers!"

Mark Messier

Good thing for Gary Bettman that Messier didn't instead decide he wanted to be NHL commissioner. Hey, wait a minute ...

Seriously, though, there's something rather odd about Messier's sudden matter-of-fact revelation and the rather curious, shoulder-shrugging, "OK, we'll see" response from current Rangers GM Glen Sather.

Now, no one wants to hurt Messier's feelings. He's a future Hall of Famer who ranks among the best forwards to play the game. He is one of the best leaders of all time in any sport. If you offend him, there is the possibility he will tear your head off and drop chip crumbs down the opening just for fun.

But there is something more than a little off-putting about the whole thing.

As great a player as Messier was, he has absolutely no experience to recommend him as a general manager. Not now. Maybe not ever. If he looked around the NHL, he would see he's not alone in his desire to turn a Hall of Fame career into something meaningful in the post-retirement hockey world.

Steve Yzerman is paying his dues in the upper offices of the Detroit Red Wings. He's already been tabbed to run Canada's entry at the World Championships this summer in Moscow. But at no point did Yzerman call up The Detroit Free Press and say, "You know, I think I'd like Ken Holland's job when he's done with it."

In Los Angeles, Luc Robitaille is paying his dues with the Kings, attending board of governors meetings and the like. He has not tried to jump the queue and announce his intentions to run the Kings or any other major business operation.

Yzerman and Robitaille wouldn't do it because they understand their place in their new worlds and respect the people ahead of them, people like Holland and Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill and Kings GM Dean Lombardi and assistant Ron Hextall.

If there's something Messier should know and respect, it's paying dues. And he hasn't. Not even close.

Even if there was something lost in the translation between Edmonton, where the story broke, and New York, the notion that Messier expects to be handed the job at some point does a disservice to those who have actually worked hard to get to that point (like Rangers assistant GM Don Maloney).

It also does a disservice to Messier, who should know better.

TOLL OF THE TOCCHET CASE

Tocchet So, it's been a year since Rick Tocchet was implicated in the now-famous Operation Slap Shot betting scandal. "Implicated" is the operative word because, a year later, Tocchet still has not been formally charged but rather just put on notice.

New Jersey authorities plan, at some point, to charge him with a series of crimes in connection with the alleged betting ring. Some experts have recently said it's not unusual for authorities to take this long to bring charges in a case like this, but we can't help but feel some empathy for Tocchet, who is in professional limbo and barred from the NHL until the matter is cleared up.

New Jersey officials have been curiously tight-lipped about the proceedings, especially after all the convenient leaks that took place immediately after the probe hit the headlines.

The longer the wait for any formal action against Tocchet, the more this looks like an issue of rush to judgment and the greater the odor of law enforcement and state officials looking to make a name for themselves without having the goods.

In the end, the real story may be the issue of justice for Tocchet.


--S.B.