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Messier and Stevens getting ready for induction into Hockey Hall of Fame

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Mark Messier will be back.

The six-time Stanley Cup champion and 15-time NHL all-star has been laying low since ending his playing career three years ago. "My two beautiful children have been my focus since retiring," Messier said during a conference call Wednesday. "Being a dad - that's been the best part of retirement."

That and his charitable work but, as he prepares for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday along with Scott Stevens, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Jim Gregory, it is clear that Messier wants back in.

"Hockey is what I know best," he said.

He's unsure exactly when it might happen.

"I'm not actively pursuing a position at this particular time but at some point I think it would be gratifying to be part of a championship team in a different position," he said.

He was recognized during his playing days as one of the most effective leaders in NHL history, so he's positioned well for a managerial role.

"It would be a lot of fun to get back into the game," said the 46-year-old native of Edmonton who lives in South Carolina.

Messier amassed 1,887 points, trailing only former teammate and good friend Wayne Gretzky in the NHL record book, and he's seventh in all-time goals with 694.

He was the first player to captain two different teams, the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers, to NHL championships. He twice was named regular-season MVP and he was playoff MVP in 1984 when the Oilers won the first of their five championships.

"I've always felt leaders are made and not born," he said. "I was very fortunate to have a father who played hockey and understood hockey.

"As you go through your career you realize that you're really at the mercy of the people around you when you play a team sport and I was fortunate to be around tremendous people. Through that, you gain experience. You're faced with making decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong decisions but, hopefully, you learn from them."

Messier, Stevens, MacInnis and Francis will skate in an oldtimers game Sunday in the Air Canada Centre. For all of them, the weekend will be about recalling how others helped them earn spots in the hockey shrine.

"In the end, nobody can win by themselves," said Messier. "This whole weekend will be one of reflection on how fortunate I was to have people supporting me throughout my career."

The fifth title in Edmonton was tempered by the absence of Gretzky, who'd been traded to Los Angeles after the fourth, said Messier.

"I never felt vindicated that we won without Wayne," he said. "If anything, I felt sad he wasn't there to share it with us after what we went through winning the first four.

"I didn't feel we had anything to prove as individuals that we could win without Wayne. It was more about a feeling of responsibility to carry on the tradition we had established there."

The 1994 triumph with the Rangers, ending a 54-year title drought, was similar to the first cerebration with the Oilers, he said.

"I felt the same pandemonium-type feeling in New York in 1994 as I had in 1984," he said. "There was just sheer jubilation and satisfaction for both of those cups."

He played in the NHL for 25 years, and he was fortunate to escape serious injuries. He required surgery only once, and it was a minor procedure on a shoulder late in his career.

"I had stretched ligaments and some broken bones but, overall, I was fortunate to walk away from the game incredibly healthy, knock on wood," he said.

The Edmonton-Calgary rivalry will always be a highlight of his days as an Oiler, he said. The Flames pushed Messier and his teammates to be the best they could possibly be.

"It became a war of wills," said Messier. "The hockey became very intense.

"We wouldn't have been the same team without Calgary pushing us to the heights they did. What they forced us to do was to really examine ourselves and what we were made of. They forced us to answer the call. Your internal courage had to be summoned every time we met."

Messier represented Canada in the 1984, 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup tournaments and captained Canada's 1996 World Cup of Hockey team.

Stevens appeared in 13 all-star games during his 22-year NHL career and won three NHL titles with the New Jersey Devils, whom he captained from 1992 till his retirement. He was playoff MVP in 2000. He didn't get the opportunity to play for Canada as often as did Messier although they were teammates for the 1998 Olympics.

He was regarded as the hardest clean hitter in the sport during his day. Francis, Slava Kozlov, Daymond Langkow, Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya and Joe Thornton can all testify about how hard he hit, and Stevens didn't apologize for his tough-as-nails approach.

"It's a physical game and that's the beauty of the game," he said. "That's one of the reasons fans love the game.

"That was my game from when I was young. I was always a physical player."

He sees some no-hitters among games he watches on TV now.

"I just hope we're not making this great game too pretty," he said.

He's 43 now and enjoying time with his family including two sons in high school. They live in New Jersey in what Stevens refers to as a farmhouse.

As is the case with Messier, Stevens would like to get back into the NHL in some capacity.

"I'm always intrigued by the NHL," Stevens said, adding that he's helped coached youngsters since retiring. "I'm going to try and keep my foot in the door and keep my options open."

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