Twenty-five years ago, Mark Messier called his New York Rangers shot against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.
This just doesn’t make sense. A quarter of a century ago? How is it actually possible?
Twenty-five years ago today (Saturday, May 25, 2019), the Rangers captain, the Messiah, not only guaranteed victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils, he delivered with a natural hat trick in the third period.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) May 25, 2019
Messier’s pregame words were straightforward.
“I know we’re going to go in and win Game 6 and bring in back here [Madison Square Garden] for Game 7 … We have enough talent and experience to turn the tide. That’s exactly what we’re going to do in Game 6.”
The backdrop of Gary Thorne’s ESPN broadcast only heightened the moment.
“Do you believe it? Do you believe it? He said ‘we will win’ Game 6 … he has just picked up the hat trick.”
Oftentimes, the details get lost when immortals step forward. Without Alex Kovalev’s first goal, none of this happens. Without Mike Richter standing on his head early on, Messier’s 1994 squad flames out so predictably (based on Rangers history). Without Esa Tikkanen‘s nearly designed penalty that created a four-on-four situation to New York’s advantage, Messier doesn’t collect his second goal.
Of course, Stephane Matteau‘s double-overtime goal in Game 7 sent the Rangers to that last hill to climb, the Stanley Cup Final against the seventh-seeded Vancouver Canucks.
(And yes, there’s only one way to take in the Matteau goal: with Howie Rose’s call.)
Messier collected 12 goals and 18 assists in 23 total playoff games, playing second-fiddle (statistically) to only the Conn Smythe man himself, Brian Leetch.
Spiritually, Mark Messier owned the moment and the franchise. He came, he conquered, and he erased so many demons to be crowned one of the greatest New York sports heroes of all-time.