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The Look of A Winner
Austin Murphy
May 09, 1988
Midway through the NHL playoffs, center Mark Messier has fixed his sights on another Stanley Cup for Edmonton
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May 09, 1988

The Look Of A Winner

Midway through the NHL playoffs, center Mark Messier has fixed his sights on another Stanley Cup for Edmonton

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Not that Messier was about to forget he is his father's son. During the 1984 Canada Cup, Mark opened Soviet winger Vladimir Kovin's face with an elbow. Kovin required 25 stitches. In December '84, Messier received a 10-game suspension for shattering Flames defense-man Jamie Macoun's cheekbone with one punch.

After the 1983-84 season, with a Conn Smythe Trophy under his belt for having been the MVP in the playoffs, Messier could have become a free agent. Instead, he agreed to a contract extension with the Oilers. "The guys we have together here, you have to think it's a miracle," Messier says. Messier did hold out for more money last summer. After helping Team Canada win the Canada Cup in a spectacular series against the Soviet National Team, Messier took a few days off before reporting to the Oilers' camp. "I felt like dancing," he says. "So it was off to Mannheim [ West Germany] to visit Paul and do some club-hopping."

"The phone would ring and it would be Slats, and I'd say, 'Mark isn't in right now, Glen,' " says Paul. "I'm not sure where he is."

Messier finally went home and, with the help of Doug, negotiated a fat new six-year contract. Said Sather at the time, "How would you like to spend three weeks staring across a table at Doug Messier?"

Sather was more reluctant to lose Messier than Paul Coffey, the offensive defenseman who held out at the same time and is now a Pittsburgh Penguin. Off ice, says Lowe, Messier has become "a leader, if not the leader on the team," one who inspires confidence and a smidgen of fear. According to insiders, a "talk" from Messier persuaded forward Kent Nilsson to get his behind in gear last season. Messier admits to nothing.

"A basic rule when he was a stickboy was, 'What's said in the locker room, that's as far as it goes,' " says Doug, who will always be a hockey coach. Mark Messier remains true to that tenet.

He still has problems with the circumstances of his father's firing. "Can't fire 19 players, so you might as well fire the coach, right?" says Mark. The sarcasm, unusual for Messier, is a clue that he is bitter.

He asked that question on his way to play golf with Paul. Out on the course Messier is gregarious again—until he starts leaving putts short. Finally, on the 18th, he runs a 12-footer at the cup so hard that the ball hits the back of the hole and takes a little jump before clunking into the cup. Now it's O.K. to laugh.

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