New York Rangers Memories: Mark Messier and the game six guarantee

5 Oct 2001: Mark Messier Mandatory Credit: Kent Smith /Allsport
5 Oct 2001: Mark Messier Mandatory Credit: Kent Smith /Allsport /

Twenty four years ago tonight, the New York Rangers were down 3-2 to New Jersey in the conference finals. Then came the guarantee.

The New York Rangers were a dominant team in 1993-1994, posting the second-most points in team history with 112. Mike Keenan and company came in and did what they were brought in to do. They ended the Rangers’ drought and won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1940. The on-ice leader was the center. He was the captain and was brought in from Edmonton to deliver, and that is what he did.

His name, for everybody who forgot, is Mark Messier. Now one of the most beloved figures in New York sports, and with good reason. Most memorable was when they finally won the cup, seeing a fan hold up a sign that said “Now I can die in peace”. That is how important this was to New York fans at the time.

However, it almost didn’t happen. The Rangers faced the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals. After five games they were down 3-2 and facing a pivotal game six in New Jersey. Everyone remembers “Matteau! Matteau!” from game seven, but the Rangers had to get there first. Without winning game six there is no game seven.

Then, the captain steps up. We aren’t at the game yet, he stepped up before the game. Not only does Messier believe the Rangers are going to win he guaranteed it:

"“We’re going to go in and win Game 6,” Messier said. “That was the focus this morning and it’s the way we feel right now. We’ve done that all year, we’ve won all the games we’ve had to win. “I know we’re going to go in and win Game 6 and bring it back here (to the Garden) for Game 7 … We have enough talent and experience to turn the tide. That’s exactly what we’re going to do in Game 6.”"

Bold, right? It hadn’t been done since Joe Namath. But here we were. How did it turn out?

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It didn’t start out well. Two first period goals by the Devils, one by Scott Niedermayer and Claude Lemieux put the Devils up 2-0 as the first period came to an end.

In the second period, the Rangers tightened the defense up. One goal by Alex Kovalev brought the Rangers back into the game, down 2-1 as the third period came upon them.

Mark Messier then took over the game. He did was a team captain is supposed to do. He took his team on his back. He guaranteed they were going to win and he led them to victory, all by himself.


Not even three minutes into the period, Messier scored his first to tie the game up. A hard-fought ten minutes later, there was the go-ahead goal scored by Mark. And then, with less than two minutes remaining, he put an exclamation point on the game by adding an empty net goal. That’s right, the captain backed up his guarantee with a hat trick.

Take a look:

Oh, what a night that was. What a night is was for Messier and for the Rangers.

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It wasn’t just the fact that he won the game. It’s the way Messier took over. He saw his team down and he got it done all by himself. He epitomized what it means to be a leader, on and off the ice. He put the pressure on himself with the guarantee and made good on it with a hat trick. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Finding a leader like Mark Messier will be difficult, if ever found again.