The Rangers and Mark Messier announced today that Messier has left the Rangers organization to instead work on the development of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx.
This news comes six days after the Rangers officially announced the hiring of Alain Vigneault as the team's new head coach. At Vigneault's introductory press conference last Friday, Rangers General Manager Glen Sather said he had yet to speak with Messier regarding his future with the team, but said that he expected to talk to him at some point over the next week.
Messier, who has served as special assistant to the president and general manager of the Rangers since 2009, released this statement today:
“I would like to thank the New York Rangers and particularly Glen Sather for giving me the opportunity over the last four years to work with the Rangers. I am resigning my position with the Team to pursue an opportunity to expand the game of hockey in the New York area by developing the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth. I completely respect the decision that was made and for all the reasons it was made. I harbor no hard feelings toward Glen or the Rangers. This is a personal choice I am making to create a program in the New York area that will give our children more choices and opportunities in the future. I wish the Rangers nothing but the best in the future.“
Glen Sather also released his own statement, which read:
“Mark Messier will always be a part of the New York Rangers family. As a player and then as part of the management team, he brought incomparable passion and dedication to the organization. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The Kingsbridge National Ice Center, which is tentatively expected to be completed in September 2018, is going to be the world's largest indoor ice center and will hold nine ice rinks in the community center. Messier has been one of the center's top supporters, and the plans to build the ice center were officially announced in April by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It's a bummer to see Mess leave the organization, but I think we all knew this was coming after the Rangers passed on naming him the team's next head coach. I thought there was a small possibility that Messier could accept an assistant head coaching job with the organization to remain with the organization, although that idea always seemed far-fetched to me. Any time the Rangers were to go through a losing streak or a rough stretch you just know fans would be clamoring to give Messier the head coaching job if he was still in the organization now that it's been revealed that he does have an interest in becoming a head coach.
I'm sure Messier will resurface in the NHL before too long, even though it won't be with the Rangers. The good news here is that he's leaving the team on good terms, so I'm sure hell still be making tons of public appearances and going to functions at the Garden through the team. Still, it's a shame that both sides couldn't figure out a way to make the relationship last given the sentimental value that all Rangers fans, myself included, have towards Mess.
Anyway, good luck to Mark in the future. Hopefully, he can get that head coaching job he's now known to be targeting in the future and will be back in the NHL in some form or fashion relatively soon.