No hockey player had or has ever come close to putting their necks on the chopping block like Mark Messier did that day 18 years ago when he guaranteed a Rangers win in Game 6.
Thanks to the New Jersey Devils being up 3-2 in the 2012 Eastern Conference final, everyone is reminded yet again how spectacular that statement was for our eventual Stanley Cup victory, the Rangers organization and most importantly, the history of the game.
For the NHL, it epitomized the conviction you need to play our game. What’s best about the whole thing is he said it in the biggest media market in the world. This wasn’t a guy guaranteeing a win in Columbus, Carolina, or Buffalo. Heck, even non-hockey fans in New York City knew of the “guaranteed win” comment. How could they not with newspapers like The Post and NY Daily gracing their front pages with giant type announcing “We will win” on it?
The beauty in all of this is Mark had no preconceived notion to show up to Rye playland (our practice facility) and drop this bombshell. He was merely answering a question thousands of us have been asked in the past. “How will your team respond”? They even gave him chances to wiggle out of it. But he never wavered. Just the opposite. When asked if he really meant to say that, he said: “That’s exactly what we’re going to do in Game 6.”
What made Mark such an easy leader to follow was we knew his guarantee came from a selfless place. He didn’t say it to stand beside New York greats Joe Namath and former Knick Willis Reed. He said it to reprogram the mindset of a few players, such as Brian Leetch and Mike Richter. And man, did it ever work.
I’d argue that Richter’s third-period performance was better than Messier’s hat trick. The problem for Richter was no one remembers it cause all Richter guaranteed me the day before was a cheap lunch.
I get a kick out of the media who continue to look for the next Mark Messier almost 20 years later. Remember just last season the media pouncing on Daniel Sedin when they thought they got a guaranteed victory statement out of him? Poor Daniel — his knees shook so hard after realizing what he said I’m surprised he didn’t snap a ligament. But I can’t say I blame him one bit for back-tracking.
You have to have some big cojones to try to pull that off.
The truth is we may never see another “guaranteed win” statement in the playoffs again. I don’t think today’s stars would put their legacy on the line by risking utter failure.
The fact that Messier did is the real beauty in his guarantee.