When Mark Messier
broke into the NHL in 1979, computer technology was still in its infancy stage. Cable television was just being born, 8-Track players were a hot item and “Pong” was basically society’s lone video game.
Twenty-nine years and six Stanley Cup championships later, Messier found himself at the NHL Headquarters in New York City having his body scanned for McFarlane Toys, which holds the rights and supplies fans and collectors with NHL action figures.
“It’s very interesting to what level figurines have gone to,” Messier told NHL.com after working with the president of Todd McFarlane Design, Ed Frank, on the project. “I’m always interested in that kind of stuff anyways, but to see it and be a part of it was interesting. It’ll be nice to see the final product now after going through it.”
McFarlane Toys has been in business since 1993, when the popular comic Spawn hit the scene. Since then, the company has become the fifth-largest manufacturer of action figures in the United States. Besides the NHL, McFarlane Toys also works with Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. Their action figures are sold worldwide.
“Hockey was the first property in sports that we were able to get the rights to do,” Frank told NHL.com. “We’ve had an amazing success with it.”
Messier became the latest in a long line of hockey greats to work with McFarlane Toys. Phoenix Coyotes
coach and all-time great Wayne Gretzky
has worked with the company, along with others such as Jaromir Jagr
, Martin Brodeur
, Mario Lemieux
and Sidney Crosby
For Frank, Wednesday morning was extra special. Frank is a New Jersey native and grew up a fan of the red, white and blue. Messier was the captain of the franchise’s lone championship in the past 68 years, when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994.
“It’s really a thrill,” Frank said. “The guy is an icon. Here in New York, he gave us the first Stanley Cup since Moses came down from the mountains. It’s incredibly thrilling. I’m from New Jersey and I’ve always been a Rangers fan. It’s a great, great feeling and a great opportunity.”
“Who would have ever thought that sports figurines would have gone to this level and used that kind of technology to create something for the fans?” Messier said. “It’s great to see.”
Because of the state of today’s technology, it only took McFarlane’s team roughly 30 minutes to scan and save Messier’s physique. While most of the company’s work is done via computer, Frank emphasized the importance of his team of artists, who will gather the information taken on Wednesday and move on to the next step.
“When we first started doing it, it was basically taking a lump of clay and take it from there,” Frank said. “We’ve gotten into the digital technology. It’s very important to us. It’s still important to us that the sculptors are involved in the process, because to take it from the scan data and turn it into the final product still requires a sculptor’s hand and the artist’s side. You have to make the right choices with the technology to get the best product.”
The digital team worked with Messier every step of the way on Wednesday and described to him in detail about each step in the process. Messier said he was impressed by what the company was able to accomplish in such a short amount of time.
Welcome to the 21st century.
“I think I have a pretty good idea of how it worked and what they’re trying to do,” Messier said. “To actually be able to see what they’re scanning immediately was interesting as well. Pretty amazing stuff.”
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org