Life after hockey has been a smooth transition for Mark Messier, but the Moose is eyeing a return to the NHL - perhaps as a general manager. (CPimages/AP/Richard Drew)
"I'm looking forward to getting back in the game," Messier told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. Messier, who turned 46 on Jan. 18, says it was important for him to take a few years off after retiring. He wanted to spend time with his young family - longtime partner Kim Clark, 3½-year-old son Douglas and 1½-year-old daughter Jacqueline Jean. He has also enjoyed watching 19-year-old son Lyon play for the junior Texas Tornado in the North American Hockey League.
But it'll soon be three full years since Messier last played an NHL game in April 2004 and he's beginning to crave a return to hockey.
"I'm anxious to get back in the game in a different capacity and trying to win a championship in a different form," said Messier.
"This summer, I'd like to start thinking about doing something," Messier added. "I just have to see what the opportunities are. It's a big challenge obviously but I think I can offer something to one of the teams."
Messier would join a couple of other former Oiler greats in the business, with Wayne Gretzky already coaching in Phoenix and Kevin Lowe the GM in Edmonton.
Messier appears to be leaning towards management, not coaching.
"I think with the new rules and the salary cap, it's really become a general manager's game now because of the decisions and tweaking of the salary cap and the pressure on the GMs to do the right things and make the right decisions and having a scouting staff," said Messier.
"It's definitely a chess game and it would be fun to compete in that regard."
In the meantime, aside from enjoying time with his family, Messier has a few other things on his plate. He does the odd appearance on behalf of the New York Rangers, hands out the NHL's monthly Mark Messier Leadership Award, is the pitch man in the U.S. for Cold-FX, and is also busy with renovations at the Runaway Hill Inn, his boutique hotel in the Bahamas.
"The hotel has been an interesting project," said Messier. "I first went to the Bahamas in 1995, fishing, and started to really enjoy it down there. I kept going back there over the years and an opportunity came up to invest there. ... It's been a great endeavour."
When he's not in the Bahamas or in New York, he's at home in Hilton Head, S.C.
Next month, he'll be honoured in his native Edmonton when the Oilers retire his No. 11 before a Feb. 27 game against Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes.
"It'll be an exciting time for our whole family, being born and raised in Edmonton," said Messier. "And having a chance to play there in front of my family and relatives, it's not an opportunity many players get any time in their career. And to have the success that we did there ..."
Messier shed a few tears during his ceremony in New York last season and much the same is expected in Edmonton.
"It's going to be really emotional," said Messier. "They're bringing back people who were instrumental for our team and that helped me along the way. Those kinds of moments bring back so many memories that it'll definitely be emotional."
Messier was also in Dallas last week for the NHL all-star game and came away impressed by 19-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
"For whatever reason, every once in a while, kids come along that are just able to play with the maturity and conduct themselves with a maturity far beyond their years and Sidney is one of those guys that has everything it takes to be a superstar," said Messier, who was no slouch himself at that age. "He's quickly displaying what everybody anticipated of him when he came into the league. He's quickly living up to that billing."
Messier presented Crosby with the monthly leadership award before the all-star game.
"I think the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins and people around the country that get to watch him play are really starting to see that we have a special player on our hands that can shoulder the responsibility that's been laid on him, because of his personality, because of his love of the game, because of his respect for the tradition of the game and all the things that are really important for someone in his position," said Messier.
"He's done it gracefully. Not too many players have done it as well as him coming into the league."