Messier, 52, and general manager Glen Sather, 69, have a relationship that goes back four decades. Messier won the Stanley Cup five times with the Edmonton Oilers when Sather was coach and GM. In 1991, Sather traded Messier to the New York Rangers, where he played for six seasons and won another Cup before leaving for the Vancouver Canucks. When Sather became GM of the Rangers in 2000, he brought back Messier for the final four seasons of his NHL career.
Since 2009, Messier has worked closely with Sather in the Rangers organization, serving as special assistant to the president. When coach John Tortorella was fired following the team's second-round playoff loss, Messier interviewed for the job. However, Sather chose Vigneault.
"It was a difficult decision, no question about that," Sather said Friday during a press conference at Radio City Music Hall to introduce Vigneault. "[Mark and I have] had a long relationship. We've both grown up with each other. It was a difficult decision to make. But running this hockey club is not easy all the time and tough decisions are made for tough reasons. At this stage, [Vigneault] is the man."
Messier's only coaching experience came in 2010, when he led Canada at the Deutschland Cup and the Spengler Cup. This month, he admitted to reporters for the first time he wanted to coach in the NHL.
"We had our scouts meetings and I've had conversations with Glen, and like anybody that would be interested in coaching, obviously the Rangers would be a dream come true for a lot of coaches," Messier said June 14.
That dream won't happen now, and Sather declined Friday to discuss Messier's future with the organization, saying he expected to talk to Messier next week.
Asked if he could envision Messier as an NHL coach, Sather did say it was possible.
"I would like to think that [coaching in the NHL] could happen, certainly," Sather said. "He's got to decide what he wants to do. And he's told me he’s going to take a few days and we're going to talk about it."