And early on I had always decided to read this book as part of my '12 in 12' venture. And since Messier is number 11, I chose November as the month to read it.
OK....that's not true. It was a random decision.
But I took on the task and be warned...my review might get quite heated.
Jeff Z. Klein
I'd like to begin by saying this....Mark Messier is two things to me. An Oiler, and an asshole. (there, I feel better) This book did a decent job of reinforcing that opinion I have.
Long championed as being one of the "best leaders in sports" (which I find laughable), Messier played a lot longer than he probably should have in a league that evolved into a game he couldn't compete in.
This book gives an account of Mark's career from his youth, to his brief WHA days, the Oiler dynasty, New York dominance and yes....Vancouver.
The book did not have the support of Messier or his family so there are no direct interviews with Mark, his family, friends or teammates. Instead, author Jeff Klein (writer for New York Times Magazine) relied on volumes of information already out there. News Stories, Magazine articles, past interviews, other books.....you name it. And to his credit, Klein did a very nice job in organizing and presenting his findings.
I'll admit, the first half of the book I really enjoyed. It took me back to the early 80's when hockey was introduced to me. The Islanders and Oilers were kings of the league and the lineup in Edmonton was a who's who of all-stars. It was a great trip back in time.
But when the book shifted to the Ranger years, my enjoyment turned into a reinforcement of my beliefs. I was shaking my head more than sitting back and enjoying the words.
The book is a definite fluff piece and rarely goes into any sort of controversies or conflicts. Messier is made out to be some sort of iconic hero. Hence, the throwing up.
As mentioned, I was especially interested in how the book would portray two specific instances (both involving my guy, Trevor Linden). The first being the vicious crosscheck Messier lashed out to Linden at the end of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. ZERO! Absolutely no mention of the cowardly act. Not surprised.
The other being the locker room relationship the two would have as teammates in Vancouver (and I use that term loosely). Again, Messier comes off as squeaky clean. It's more Keenan who is painted as the jerk.
I'm amazed that so many people think Messier is the ultimate captain. Two instances in this book lead me to believe otherwise. The way he treated Vancouver fans, the organization and teammates in general was anything but "captain-like". (The Wayne Maki number 11 incident alone capped that). And the fact that he could not elevate his game during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey because he couldn't generate the intensity against his New York teammates playing for other countries (the USA especially).
Messier plays the game so one dimensionally that it's funny. His numbers are padded solely because of the stacked lineups he played on. If you're not part of his "in" crowd....you're an afterthought in his mind. He's more of a politician than a leader.
Still, I can't help but give the books more positives than negatives. It's well written, well organized and easy to flip through.
3 out of 5
Instead, I'm going with a little lighter read. One that Captain Canuck himself recommended (and let me borrow)...
Last one of the year!!!