It’s hard to believe, but 15 years ago, we were witnessed to one of the greatest events in sports history.
The New York Rangers had lost a tough game 5 at Madison Square Garden to an upstart New Jersey Devils team. Like so many years before, the Rangers were expected to lose yet another playoff series. Many fans and hockey purists thought the Rangers were cursed. I even started to believe they were doomed to failure.
But the night before the big game, someone Rangers fans thought of as a “messiah” made a bold prediction. Captain Mark Messier, a man who won 5 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, simply said, “We will win game 6, I guarantee it.”
It was a great sound-byte. New York newspapers lapped it up, plastering Messier’s words on their sports headlines. TV and radio ran it over and over in their sportscasts.
“Are you kiddin’?”, sports reporters and writers replied. “After all, these were the New York Rangers! 1940 was etched in every one’s skull. Surely, you couldn’t do this yourself?”
But this was different. This was the stuff of legend. Joe Namath “guarantee” victory for the Jets in Super Bowl III. Messier achieved what no other Ranger achieved in their hockey career, 5 times over.
I remember where I was that day. I was living in Hayward, California; working a temp job and barely hanging on to my cable TV subscription, hoping I can continue watching. I was fortunate to keep it for another month.
I videotaped the game, having to go to a Toastmasters meeting in Foster City for a prior commitment. The whole time I was wondering, praying, hoping Messier’s guarantee would hold up.
I got home at 10pm Pacific. By then, the game was over. I promised myself I would watch the game the next day. But, my nerves were shot. Anguished by the outcome of the game, I watched.
The rest was history. (See video below!)
Messier’s guarantee was achieved, scoring a 3rd period hat trick in Game 6 vs. the Devils in what many called, one of the greatest hockey games ever played.
The Rangers tied the series and went on to beat the Devils in two overtimes to win the series, 4 games to 3. They went on to the finals against the Vancouver Canucks and took home the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years, also winning in that series, 4 games to 3.
Messier, fittingly, scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in game 7.
My eyes still tear up thinking about that night. I don’t think anyone really believed a New York Rangers Stanley Cup championship would happen in our lifetime…except when you have a leader nicknamed, “The Messiah”.