EDMONTON – Mark Messier went from Hall of Fame player to Glen Sather’s special sssistant in the New York Rangers’ front office.
Today, he just doesn’t see the crucial element in either side to get a deal done: “Trust,” he said.
“I’m disappointed that we’re in another lockout,” Messier said, after dropping the puck at the Western Hockey League opener between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Kootenay Ice. “As a player, (he is) disappointed that it’s gotten to that again. And as a part of management, disappointed that we’re in the same position.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to bridge the gap in the trust area,” he said. “There’s been a big problem with that for a long time. It just seems like every time we build some good momentum, we get back to this.”
Messier comes from that old school of firm handshakes, a stern look in the eye, and if the guy you’re looking at earns your trust you go ahead and make a deal.
In a cap system, particularly, if the two sides can’t believe in each other, it’s hard to fathom how they could possibly make a deal every seven years or so.
“There has to be a partnership — everyone knows it,” Messier said. “In order to have that viable working relationship, there has to be trust on both sides — so you can even begin to negotiate.”
Messier may be caught in the middle of the two sides when it comes to the lockout. When the topic switched to the ongoing negotiation between the City of Edmonton and Oilers owner Daryl Katz over a new downtown arena however, Messier is firmly planted on his old buddy’s side.
“I’ve known Daryl since we were 18, 19, 20 years old,” said Messier, who grew up playing hockey in the predecessor to the 1974-built Northlands Coliseum, the old Edmonton Gardens.
It’s time for a new rink here in Edmonton, and the City and the Katz Group are at odds over who is going to pay for what. Messier warned Edmonton tax payers not to look a gift horse in the mouth in Katz.
“I just hope that everybody can take advantage of the ownership that’s in position now, and what he’s trying to do for the city and the team,” Messier said. “Because if they do miss the opportunity, it will be really sad and disappointing; ‘Cause then who knows what might happen?”
Katz hung around with the old Oilers back in the glory days. Now he’s got more money than all of them — and owns their old team.
“I know who he is, his passion for the Oilers. I know it’s a dream come true (for Katz) to have the resources to even own the team,” Messier said. “To do something that’s obviously good for the city, the team, for everybody. I’d wake up and take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of the city right now.”