NHL Oilers plan 2-day festival around Mark Messier Feb. 27 jersey retirement

Author:
Publish date:

The NHL team and the city are planning two days of festivities to honour their favourite son. Get ready for Moosapalooza. "The (pre-game) ceremonies can get long and arduous as they were with Stevie Y (Steve Yzerman)" Oiler president Patrick LaForge told reporters Wednesday. Yzerman's No. 19 jersey was retired Jan. 2 in a 90-minute ceremony prior to the Detroit Red Wings' game against the Anaheim Ducks.

"There was no opportunity for fans there to reach out to Stevie, and we want to do that here and we want to do it with Mark.

"He's a native son and an Edmonton boy and he wants this."

The man known affectionately as Moose will have his number retired in a ceremony prior to the Oilers' game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 27.

The day before, thousands of fans are expected to jam the city's downtown Churchill Square to pay tribute to him.

That night, Messier and others including ex-Oilers Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey will swap stories on stage at the city's Winspear Centre concert hall in a $350-a-ticket charity fundraiser.

LaForge said Oiler great Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes coach, can't attend the fundraiser but will have a role in the jersey retirement at the game.

He noted that Feb. 26 is a busy time as it's NHL trade deadline day.

"(Ex-Oiler GM) Glen Sather was considering moving his (New York Rangers) scouting staff out here so he can be a part of it," said LaForge.

Messier's number will join the sweaters of Gretzky, Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri and Al Hamilton. The Oilers will wear vintage blue jerseys from the Messier-Gretzky heyday of the 1980s.

Messier was not at the announcement but said in a news release, "I was born and raised in Edmonton and spent the first twelve years of my NHL career playing for the Oilers. Having my number raised to the rafters of Rexall Place, where we accomplished so much as a team and I made so many lifelong friends, is truly an honour."

The game is sold out but will be televised. The Oilers community foundation has offered to buy back tickets from fans, but so far have only collected 10.

"We've found places for all the Messier clan," said LaForge.

He said he doesn't feel the $350 fundraiser ticket (two-thirds of which is tax-deductible) puts the celebration out of the range of Oiler fans who don't have deep pockets.

"It is higher priced, but it's a donation idea and there will be a public event at Churchill Square." When Gretzky's jersey was retired, the city re-named the expressway that runs past Rexall Place Wayne Gretzky Drive. There is also a statue of him outside the building hoisting the Stanley Cup.

LaForge said some kind of lasting tribute is in the works for Messier, but wouldn't be more specific.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, with LaForge for the announcement, also wouldn't comment.

"We'll see," he said.

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_13754514
Play

Get Ready for the Dallas Stars' Defensive Invasion

With the start of the NHL’s 2021 unrestricted free agent period now in the rear-view mirror, it’s as good a time as any to take stock of the league’s power broker teams. And it's time to look like the Dallas Stars as a true contender again, writes Adam Proteau.

Hlinka-Gretzky Cup Logo
Play

Hlinka-Gretzky Cup Roundup: Russia, Slovakia Win Groups

The final four teams that will battle for medals are known, with Russia winning Group A and Slovakia coming out with a stunner to win Group B over Sweden.

USATSI_16014522
Play

Best of the Rest: Top Remaining Unrestricted Free Agents of 2021

Most big fish have left the free-agent pond, but some impactful UFAs remain. Who are the best 10? And when will the Islanders make their moves?