On October 4, 1991, the New York Rangers made a risky transaction when they sent Bernie Nichols to the Edmonton Oilers for an aging Mark Messier.
The 30-year-old Messier had five Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe trophy on his resume. The Rangers were second in the Patrick Division at the conclusion of the 1990-91 season and needed something special to get the edge.
Rangers General Manager Neil Smith made the call for the trade as he watched his team skate in their first game of the season. The team lacked a clear leader and players skated in meaningless circles. Despite troubled knees, Messier’s experience and leadership was needed to bring the team together. As captain he lead the Rangers on the road to winning the Stanley Cup to cap off the 1993-94 season.
Messier played six seasons with the Rangers before going to the Vancouver Cunucks where he played two seasons. The Rangers took him back for the final four seasons of his career.
“New York is the media mecca for sports, they want to win, but I don’t worry about pressure,” Messier told the New York Times. “Edmonton had only 500,000 or 600,000 people, but they expected a lot, too, coming into the league with Wayne Gretzky. A team isn’t built in a day.”