Former New York Rangers stars Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier are interested in the team’s vacant head coaching position, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos has learned.
On May 29, the Rangers fired John Tortorella following the team’s five-game, second-round Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Boston Bruins.
Gretzky, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Edmonton Oilers, last played in the NHL with the Rangers and left the league after the 1998-99 season. Post-retirement, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer was head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes for four seasons from 2005-2009.
“The Great One” also had an ownership stake in the Coyotes and served as the club’s head of hockey operations.
Messier, who won six Cups as a player including the same four with Gretzky, had two stints as a member of the Rangers. During his first from 1991-1997, he led the team to a Stanley Cup championship in 1994 — New York’s first in 54 years. He returned to the club in 2000 after three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.
The 52-year-old Messier would certainly carry a lot of clout in the Big Apple, but he has no previous NHL coaching experience. However, he coached Team Canada to two podium finishes in 2010 — a third place in the Deutschland Cup and a runner-up spot in the Spengler Cup.
He is also considered one of the best leaders the NHL has seen; in 2006, the league created the Mark Messier Leadership Award, given to an individual who leads by example on the ice, motivates his teammates and is dedicated to community activities and charitable causes.