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Messier, last of Oilers, retires

When the New York Rangers acquired Mark Messier from the Edmonton Oilers in 1991, the Rangers' general manager, Neil Smith, had a sixth sense.

"I remember saying, 'Take a good look at this logo, because it will never be the same for him having been here,' " Smith said. "And that was absolutely right. He put his mark on the Rangers."

Messier won his sixth and final Stanley Cup championship with the Rangers in 1994, ending the club's 54-year famine. He announced his retirement Monday, severing the last active link to the Oilers' great teams of the 1980s and to the upstart World Hockey Association.

The 44-year-old center played 26 years of professional hockey, starting with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers and Cincinnati Stingers in the 1978-79 season.

He scored 1,887 points, more than any NHL player except his Edmonton teammate and friend, Wayne Gretzky, who scored 2,857. He ranks third in assists, with 1,193, and seventh in goals, with 694.

And he played 1,756 games, more than any player except Gordie Howe, who played 1,767. Returning for another season, merely to pass Howe, never entered his mind.

"I never thought about any individual records," Messier said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "Coming back to break any records, especially that record, wasn't all that appealing to me.

"As tough as it was to make the decision, I think it's the right one and I feel good about it."

Around the rinks

*Ted Saskin has asked the executive board of the NHL Players' Association to vote again on his five-year deal as the executive director by secret ballot, which were sent to player reps around the league this morning. The board voted 31-6 on Aug. 31 to approve Saskin's deal by conference call and not by secret ballot -- in violation of the union's bylaws.

*Unrestricted free agent forward Peter Bondra was close to signing a one-year contract with the Thrashers for a base salary of around $500,000 plus incentives.

*Under a 10-year, $100 million deal XM Satellite Radio will carry more than 1,000 NHL games this season at no added charge to its subscribers. XM will create a 24-hour, year-round hockey talk channel.

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