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Messier's camp a lesson in leadership

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Video: Messier Discusses the Camp

More on the Messier Leadership Camp

By Jim Cerny,

For Mark Messier, playing professional hockey for 24 years was as much about relationship-building and leadership as it was about winning six Stanley Cups, earning MVP honors both for the regular season and playoffs, and being enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

So it wasn’t a surprise when, six years ago, Messier decided to create The Mark Messier Leadership Camp, where he could host a yearly weekend retreat that combines two of his true passions -- hockey and leadership -- for interested business professionals.

“Exploring leadership is multi-dimensional, so we try and choose one aspect of leadership every year and try to explore that to the point that the campers not only feel that they had a great experience playing hockey and rubbing shoulders with some of the Rangers, but they also take something important home with them from a leadership standpoint,” explained The Captain.

Rangers legend Mark Messier presents the Captain's Cup trophy to the winning team at the end of each Messier Leadership Camp championship game, played on the ice at Madison Square Garden.
Since the leadership focus changes annually, many campers return and, as such, have built important relationships with fellow campers outside of the once-per-year get togethers. As one who has fostered relationship-building as a key part of creating championship teams throughout his career, Messier is extremely pleased with this growing component of The Mark Messier Leadership Camp.

“I think it’s gratifying that we’ve been able to put three days together where they’re willing to come back (the following year) and play more and learn more,” said Messier. “Also, a thing I don’t think we realized at first is that the networking that goes on at the camp is a big part of it. These guys have become good friends and have stayed in touch outside of the camp.”

The Mark Messier Leadership Camp, which will take place this year from Feb. 24-27 at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Westchester, NY, is limited to 36 people, aged 21 and over. Those 36 campers are split into two teams and then practice, strategize, and play in a competitive atmosphere amongst each other, as well as with several Rangers alumni.

In recent years, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Adam Graves, and Stephane Matteau have been among the former Blueshirts who have joined Messier on the ice, in the classroom, and at group meals with the campers.

“We have campers from all walks of life,” explained Messier, who donates a portion of the proceeds from the camp to the Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund. “We have had people from Canada, Europe … and we even had one woman who didn’t know how to skate, took lessons, and is now playing hockey regularly. We’ve had college Division III athletic directors to billionaires. It’s such a diverse group of people that come, but they all have one thing in common, that love of hockey and to experience what we can uniquely provide. It’s a very easy atmosphere for everybody because we are all the same behind those closed doors.”

Needless to say, the opportunity to play with former New York Rangers Stanley Cup champions is quite an allure to attending this camp. But Messier is impressed by the fact that the campers are equally as interested in learning about teamwork, commitment, relationship-building, and how to assume leadership roles.

The Mark Messier Leadership is far from an old-timer’s fantasy hockey camp.

“Because we limit it to 36 people by the end of the three days I know that I’ve had a great opportunity to get with everybody and spend some quality time,” explained Messier. “This way it becomes more of an intimate group, and it fosters that feeling of being part of a team, on and off the ice. That really comes through. It’s an important aspect of what we do.”

For further information on the Mark Messier Leadership Camp, please call 203-869-5640.
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