Messier’s Guarantee

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Posted: August 13, 2017


In the modern era of sports, bravado tends to be frowned upon, but in the run-up to game six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Mark Messier whose New York Rangers were trailing the series against the New Jersey Devils made a guarantee that the Rangers would win the game. At that point, the Rangers were trailing the Devils 3-2 in the series and a Rangers win seemed improbable to a certain degree. Messier and the Rangers however made good on the guarantee and went on to win the series.

Leadup to Messier’s Guarantee

Coming into the series, the Devils had never won the Stanley while the Rangers who had made 10 appearances in the finals had last held the trophy in 1940. During the 1993/1994 regular season, the Rangers and the Devils finished first and second respectively in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers beat the New York Islanders in four straight games in the first round before dispatching the Washington Capitals in four games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals. In the first round of the playoffs, the Devils beat the Buffalo Sabres in seven games and the Boston Bruins in 6 games in the other semifinal. In a hard-fought game 1 in New York, the Devils beat the Rangers 4-3 and the Rangers made amends by winning game 2 4-0. The Rangers then pulled ahead in the series , winning 3-2 in game 3 in New Jersey. The Devils evened the series with a 3-1 victory in game 4 and followed it up with a 4-1 win to put them on 3-2 series lead.

The Guarantee and the Game Unfolds

On March 25, 1995, on the morning of game 6, Rangers captain Mark Messier made a bold declaration that the Rangers would win the game. Such an impassioned guarantee could make him look like a fool if it failed to come true, and such as scenario was looking higly probable when the Devils opened a 2-0 lead in the first period. In the second period, Messier gave an assist to Alexei Kovalev who scored to make it 2-1. Entering the third period, the Rangers are still trailing by a solitary goal and that is when Messier snaps to life. Kovalev, having won possession on a subsequent play, found Messier with a pass. Messier stated forward and shot past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to bring the scores level. At this point the tension in the stands is palpable, with the Rangers possessing all the impetus. 10 minutes later, Kovalev collected possession and unleashed a powerful shot, which rebounded off Brodeur’s chest and fell tantalizingly for Messier. Messier swung his stake slotting the puck into the net to send the Rangers into the lead and their fans into delirium. With just under two minutes remaining, the Devils pulled Brodeur to give them an extra attacker. From a play in the Rangers’ zone, Messier intercepted a sloppy Devils pass and took a shot across the length of the field, which settled into the empty Devils net. The man who had made the win guarantee had just come good and in epic fashion. A hat trick and an assist in such an important game had just cemented his name in Rangers legend.

Aftermath of the Game

The Rangers would go on to win the Series as they won game 7 2-1 in second overtime period. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers were matched up against the Vancouver Canucks. The series also went all the way to game 7 with the Rangers eventually emerging victorious. Messier had become the first player to captain two different teams to Stanley Cup glory. In a later interview regarding his bluff prior to game 6, Messier said that he had regretted the words as soon as they left his lips. However, he believes that the guarantee gave his team greater motivation to win and relishes in the praise that followed. The Rangers would go on to win the Series as they won game 7 2-1 in second overtime period. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers were matched up against the Vancouver Canucks. The series also went all the way to game 7 with the Rangers eventually emerging victorious. Messier had become the first player to captain two different teams to Stanley Cup glory. In a later interview regarding his bluff prior to game 6, Messier said that he had regretted the words as soon as they left his lips. However, he believes that the guarantee gave his team greater motivation to win and relishes in the praise that followed.

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