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Oilers retire Messier's No. 11 @NHLdotcom

EDMONTON (AP) -Mark Messier skated onto the ice at Rexall Place in full equipment and hoisted the Stanley Cup for a crowd that seemed to cherish him more than ever.


After his No. 11 jersey had been raised to the ceiling on Tuesday, Messier took a final lap of the ice in the old building where he helped turn the Edmonton Oilers into a dynasty. The sold-out crowd roared loud enough to shake the arena.

Messier, the NHL's second-leading career scorer, was already in tears when he finished his skate with the Stanley Cup and placed it on a table at center ice. His three-year-old son, Douglas, wearing a vintage Messier jersey, promptly jumped into his arms as the crowd again cheered.

"I want to thank each and every one of you for all of your support," Messier told the 16,839 in attendance. "(The Oilers are) an institution in the world of sports."

Messier, who grew up nearby in St. Albert, was the emotional leader of talented teams that featured Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Al Hamilton - the men who have all previously had their jerseys retired in Edmonton.

"One of the reasons that made it so special to play here is that I was born and raised here," he said to the crowd. "To be honored in this way, standing down here, is a humbling experience."

Former teammates, friends and family joined him on the ice for the roughly 40-minute ceremony. It started with a video tribute.

Messier won six Stanley Cups - five with Edmonton - two Hart Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy.

"I'd like to thank all the Oiler fans for properly honoring the greatest leader sport has ever produced," said current Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish, a former teammate of Messier's. "Mark, that skate brought back great memories.

"Welcome back to center ice with the Edmonton Oilers."

Messier's No. 11 was also retired by the New York Rangers, the last team he led to a Stanley Cup, last season in a similarly teary ceremony.

The Oilers selected this night for Messier's tribute so Gretzky, the Coyotes' coach, could be in Edmonton.

"Tonight would not have been the same without Wayne being here," Messier said. "Wayne was our leader. He was our inspiration. He was the guy we leaned on and he never let us down and never put himself above anybody."

It was an emotional day for Oilers fans, who earlier in the day learned that assistant captain Ryan Smyth had been traded to the New York Islanders. The man who made that trade, Oliers GM Kevin Lowe, was noticeably absent from the ceremony. Lowe was a teammate of Messier's during Edmonton's glory days.

A few fans shouted encouragement for Smyth during the Messier ceremony, but the night still belonged to the Moose.

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