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Messier, Sather to Participate in Heritage Classic

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

(AP) - Rangers captain Mark Messier will play in Saturday's outdoor exhibition game between former Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens.

Rangers coach and general manager Glen Sather, who will coach the Oilers alumni in the MegaStars Alumni game, gave the OK tonight after his team's 4-3 loss to Colorado.

"He's going and I'm going with him," said Sather after tonight's game in Colorado.

Messier said earlier today he was "pretty optimistic" about playing, but said Sather had to work out details with the NHL, including questions about Messier's contract if he were to be injured in the game.

The game will be played outdoors in Edmonton, Alberta, at Commonwealth Stadium. After that, the present-day Oilers and Canadiens will face off in the first outdoor regular-season game in NHL history.

"This is a hockey promotion," Sather said. "This is not a Mark Messier promotion. It's a great experience for this guy. It's a great experience in Canada. There's 70,000 people, and there will be all of hockey there."

The Rangers' schedule helped Messier. After Thursday's game in Denver, the Rangers don't play again until Sunday afternoon, when they host Ottawa.

"We got lucky in that regard," Messier said. "A quick flight up to Edmonton from here, and then we fly home Saturday afternoon. I was really lucky with the schedules, the way they meshed."

Messier, 42, said he wants to show his appreciation to Edmonton, where he won five of his six Stanley Cups.

"I'm just going back there to be a part of the game, and it's a good way for me to say thanks to a lot of people in Edmonton," he said. "I'm just going there to have a good time and be a part of something that's obviously very important to Edmonton, to the franchise, and obviously to the league."

Messier will be the only active NHL player on either squad.

A sellout crowd of more than 56,000 is expected for the game. The forecast is for clear skies and temperatures near 15 degrees. That doesn't bother the Edmonton native.

"Once you start the game and you start playing, I don't think the cold will be a factor," Messier said. "It's been a long time since a lot of us have played outside, but I think the excitement and the adrenaline and all those things, I don't think you'll notice the cold."

M. Messier - 11/19/2003:
"It's something I really want to do. It's something I'd look back on, if I didn't do it, with a lot of regret."

"This isn't about the Oilers. It's about hockey. It's about Canadian hockey. It's about promoting the league. It's about the big picture. This is bigger than any individual. It's a tremendous event for the league at a time we as players need to do more to promote the game than just perfecting the trap. Honestly. Wayne (Gretzky), in Edmonton, would fly thousands and thousands of extra miles for appearances to promote the league. That's what it takes to promote the game. It takes sacrifice."

"Lots of guys have been asking about the game, what it was like back then (in Edmonton in the 1980s), what it was like playing with (Wayne) Gretzky. I've got the full support of my teammates. They understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any player." - Heritage Classic coverage
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