Ending nearly a decade and a half of affiliation, Hall of Famer Mark Messier announced his decision to depart the New York Rangers on Thursday.
"I would like to thank the New York Rangers and particularly Glen Sather for giving me the opportunity over the last four years to work with the Rangers. I am resigning my position with the Team to pursue an opportunity to expand the game of hockey in the New York area by developing the Kingsbridge National Ice Center," Messier admitted in a statement.
"Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth. I completely respect the decision that was made and for all the reasons it was made. I harbor no hard feelings toward Glen or the Rangers. This is a personal choice I am making to create a program in the New York area that will give our children more choices and opportunities in the future. I wish the Rangers nothing but the best in the future."
Though rumored to be in the hunt to replace John Tortorella as the club's new head coach, former Canucks bench boss Alain Vigneault was officially named to the post earlier this week.
Messier arrived in Manhattan in 1991, spending 10 seasons over two stints (1991-97; 2000-04) with the Rangers as a player, then re-joined the team in 2009 as special assistant to GM Sather -- his former boss in Edmonton. As team captain, he was instrumental in bringing the Stanley Cup back to the city in 1994 after a 54-year absence and remains a beloved franchise icon.
"Mark Messier will always be a part of the New York Rangers family. As a player and then as part of the management team, he brought incomparable passion and dedication to the organization. We wish him well in his future endeavors," added Rangers general manager Sather.