Looking fit enough to play, Mark Messier is in Edmonton on business and pleasure that revolves around hockey. This part is business and pleasure as Messier is here to promote a Bauer initiative called 'First Shift'. It allows kids ages 6-10 to easily try hockey for $199. It includes enrollment for a six-week on-ice curriculum. Head-to-toe equipment that each child can keep. The initiative began three years ago. It has expanded to 40 programs and will continue growing in places like Edmonton. However as he spoke to the media they wanted to know what he was thinking about a little bit of an older kid taking his first shift.
Connor McDavid and Mark Messier got to know each other a little this summer. They spent some time together shooting ads for Rogers. Generational player meet generational player. When Messier played, the league was overrun with incredible talents. Many of them played on his own team and others were dispersed throughout the league. If there is someone who is a great judge of what it takes to be a success in the NHL, Mark Messier would be it. He played from 1979-2004. Along the way, 1756 games in the regular season and 1887 points. Another 236 post-season matches and 295 points but the number he's most proud of is 6. The number of Stanley Cups he won.
Having just listed those numbers on the 'Moose' it was kind of neat to hear him say he was looking forward to watching Connor McDavid play in person for a first time. It never ceases to amaze me the 'wow' factor around McDavid. From the casual fan, to a Cup winner who also is the game's second-leading scorer of all time, they want to see the 18 year old. Considering his past, it's no surprise that Messier can give a perspective on what this kid will face, what his challenges will be in becoming a star and if he'll be able to achieve the greatness everyone has pencilled in for him.
The thing that Messier said about McDavid and his skills is that when it comes to great players you can't pinpoint one skill as being 'great'. When you are what Messier was and McDavid might be, almost every single one of your skills is great. It has to be in order to achieve the highest levels of success as an individual and eventually as a team. Connor's skating stands out first and foremost but the way he handles the puck and his vision for passing are just a few of the many things McDavid has in his tool box.
The former Conn Smythe trophy winner said it feels real what's happening with the Oilers. The expected turnaround and excitement generated by Edmonton. It all started when they won the draft lottery and the hype hasn't stopped since. To deal with that hype will be an interesting aspect of the number one pick's development. There will be what happens on the ice and everything else that takes place away from the rink. In Messier's mind, McDavid will handle it just like Gretzky, Lemieux and Crosby did. High praise from one great to another great in waiting.