· Shanahan scores winner in comeback vs. Devils
On Tuesday, the National Hockey League announced the introduction of the Mark Messier Leadership Award presented by COLD-fX, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies leadership skills on and off the ice.
Messier presented the inaugural award to New York Rangers left wing and assistant captain Brendan Shanahan at Madison Square Garden prior to Tuesday night's Rangers game against the New Jersey Devils. At a news conference prior to the start the game, Messier explained the goals of the award, whose winner he will personally select each month, with input from the league's general managers.
"Our objective would be to make sure that players in the league conduct themselves as professionals off the ice as well," said Messier. "As we move forward and the award gets more recognition, hopefully the players will see that it's in their best interest and it's their responsibility to do the right things."
The award is the first to recognize both on-ice excellence and community involvement on a monthly basis throughout the season
"What makes this award so special is that there are so many things it encompasses," said Messier.
As if to punctuate his honor, Shanahan went out and scored the game-winning goal on Tuesday night with Messier in attendance.
"It's a nice cherry on top of a nice cake today, for sure, but I don't think he had to go out today and score the game winner to validate our selection," said Messier. "But it sure was nice poetic justice, if you will. We really feel that Brendan, for what he's done not only this year in New York but throughout his whole career is really a guy who will wear the leadership award well for the inaugural one."
Shanahan has a flair for the dramatic and a unique ability to spark teammates. In his Rangers debut last month, he tallied two goals, including the 600th of his career, becoming the 15th player in NHL history to reach that milestone. Shanahan ranks third in the League (and leads the Rangers) in goals with 13. He also is the career goals leader among active players (612).
Off the ice, Shanahan has been actively involved in community service throughout his career, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and numerous charities for firefighters.
At Tuesday's news conference, Shanahan expressed his gratitude to Messier, a player he had looked up to throughout his career, for making him the award' s inaugural winner.
"You've left a huge imprint on all of us as players and as a role model for how we can be both on and off the ice," said Shanahan. "I think players will be honored to win this, just as I am to be its first winner."
Messier said one of the things that impressed him about Shanahan even before the left wing joined the Rangers was his performance during the past decade in Detroit.
"In my mind, he really was the guy that turned that franchise (Detroit) around from being close to the Cup to actually being able to win," said Messier. "His statistics speak for themselves and what he's done in the community speaks for itself
In recognition of each award winner, COLD-fX will donate $5,000 to the charity of his choice and the winner will receive a COLD-fX Luxury Healthy Lifestyle Gift Basket, which includes a one-year supply of COLD-fX. At season's end, one player will be named the Mark Messier Leader of the Year and have his name engraved on the Mark Messier Leadership Award, presented by COLD-fX. In addition, COLD-fX will donate $25,000 to the Leader of the Year winner's charity of choice.
Messier received a thunderous ovation from the Madison Square Garden fans when he came out to present the award. The announcement of Shanahan and the first award winner was also a hit with the Garden crowd, which was hardly a surprise to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
"The one thing I hear from Rangers fans is that they are thrilled that Brendan Shanahan is here playing for the Rangers," Bettman said to Shanahan at the news conference. "I know New York is thrilled to have you here. Glen Sather and the Rangers organization were very astute in bringing you here."