By Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published February 9, 2004
ST. PAUL, Minn. - This might have been the last All-Star Game in the grand career of Mark Messier.
"I thought the last time I played was going to be the last time," Messier joked.
The 43-year-old Messier, playing his 25th season, shows no signs of his age. Messier became the fifth player to play in 15 All-Star Games, and he proved he was not along just because of his name. The Rangers center picked up an assist on the game's first goal to set a record for All-Star assists with 14.
Later, he scored a goal, the sixth of his All-Star career.
Amazing for a player old enough to have played in All-Star Games with Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne and Larry Robinson.
"This might have been my last time, so I think I enjoyed it a little more this year than before," Messier said. "You never know what's going to happen in the future, so I tried to enjoy this one as much as I could."
THREE FOR THE AGES: Messier, who turned 43 on Jan.18, is not the oldest player to play in an All-Star Game. He is not even second.
Gordie Howe was 51 when he played in the 1980 game. St. Louis defenseman Doug Harvey was 44 when he played in 1969.
A PAIR TO PARE: Do not expect future Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy to be welcome at the next players association meeting. Or the next goalies association dinner either.
Roy, the winningest goalie who retired after last season, has two easy suggestions to fix the NHL: reduce the size of the goaltending equipment and lop off about 10 teams.
"I think I'm not going to have a lot of friends after what I'm going to say, but I think the goalies should go back to 10-inch pads," Roy said before the game.
Meantime, Roy thinks the league has been watered down by expansion and said it was never better than when it had 16 teams.
"If you take 10 teams out of there - I know the (players association) won't like what I'm saying - but, obviously, talent would be better on the ice," Roy said.
LEGENDS OF THE GAME: As a part of All-Star balloting, fans selected the first Legendary All-Star Team, which was announced and honored during the first intermission.
The ballot included players who were retired and selected to at least seven All-Star games.
The team included Roy in goal, defensemen Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, and forwards Howe, Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Hull.
SPECIAL DAY: Every player loves to be an All-Star, but it probably meant more to Toronto's Gary Roberts than anyone else. Roberts retired in 1996 at age 30 because of a severe neck injury, but he returned one year later and made the game this season at 37. It's his third trip but first since the injury.
"I guess I never really thought I would get back to play in an All-Star Game," said Roberts, who had a goal. "It's just nice to be here."
THE RECORD BOOKS: MVP Joe Sakic became the 14th player to record a hat trick. ... Eastern Conference goalie Martin Brodeur of the Devils made his eighth All-Star appearance, tying Jacques Plante for fourth all-time. ... Sakic's 18 All-Star points are fifth all-time, five behind leader Gretzky.
ET CETERA: The late Herb Brooks, a native of St. Paul and coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold-medal-winning team, was honored before the game by a video presentation. ... Canadian band Barenaked Ladies performed during the second intermission and after the game at the Ice Palace, a giant structure made of ice across the street from the Xcel Energy Center. ... Eric McCormack, who plays Will on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, performed the Canadian and American anthems. ... Celebrities in attendance included actor Kurt Russell, who plays Brooks in the just-released movie Miracle, and ABC news anchor Peter Jennings. ... The Islanders hired Butch Goring as an assistant three years after he was fired as coach.