Mark Messier remains the only man to captain two different teams to the Stanley Cup. That’s not surprising given that he is often called the finest leader the game has known. An important part of Messier’s character was his ability to say and do the right thing at the right time. As such, he refused to rely on luck and is possibly the only player not to have any superstitions he hated them. He relied on his own abilities, his own motivation from within, to succeed. No rabbit’s feet or lucky T-shirt needed for the “Moose.”
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He gave the greatest example of his un-superstitious-like qualities on May 25, 1994. It was the playoffs, and Messier and the New York Rangers were trailing the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a best-of-seven series. The Devils were the home team for game six. After practice, the day before the game, Messier told reporters: “We know we have to win it. We can win it. And we are going to win it.” The morning of the game, newspapers across New York made headlines of his “guaranteed win.”
Any player will admit that no one should ever make a promise like this. It only serves to motivate the other team and makes the chances of delivering the goods on such a promise slim to none. Better keep quiet. Not Messier.
For a while, though, it looked like he was going to be made a fool of. The Devils jumped into a 2-0 lead early in the first and continued to lead by that score late in the second. Then Messier fed Alex Kovalev the puck on a two-on-one, and with one quick shot it was a 2-1 game after two periods.
With twenty minutes left in the Rangers’ season and trailing by a goal, Messier took control. He scored early in the third period to tie the game, 2-2, and midway through he got to a rebound first, beat goalie Martin Brodeur, and put his team up, 3-2. Late in the game, playing four-on-six because of a penalty and an empty New Jersey net, Messier stole the puck in his own end and fired it into the open cage to complete the hat trick and seal a guaranteed win. The Rangers went on to win game seven and the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940 proving that heroes and heroic play do not require superstitions.