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On This Date in Sports November 6, 1995: Hats off for 500

New York Rangers Captain Mark Messier became the 21st player to score 500 career goals, as he had a hat trick during a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden. Messier would play until 2004, retiring with 694 career goals, currently ranked ninth on the all-time list. At the same time, Mark Messier retired with the second-highest point total of 1,887.

Mark Messier was born on January 18, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta. His professional career began with the Indianapolis Racers at the age of 17. When the team folded early in the 1978/79 season, Messier found himself on the roster of the Cincinnati Stingers. After the WHA folded, Mark Messier ended up on his hometown team, the Edmonton Oilers, who were one of four WHA teams to join the NHL in 1979. In 1982, Mark Messier had his breakout season, scoring 50 goals paired on the same line as Wayne Gretzky.

As the Edmonton Oilers dynasty began, Wayne Gretzky was the record-setter who became the team’s MVP, while Mark Messier was the quiet, gritty leader. When the Oilers won their first of five Stanley Cups in 1984, Messier won the Conn Smythe Award as the NHL’s Playoff MVP, with eight goals and 18 assists. Even as Gretzky received the spotlight, most agreed it was Mark Messier’s presence that was key to Edmonton’s success.

When Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, Mark Messier got a chance to step out of the Great One’s shadow, becoming the Oilers team captain as he showed just how great he was, leading the Oilers to the Stanley Cup in 1990. That season, Messier won the first of two Hart Trophies as the NHL’s regular season MVP with 45 goals and 84 assists. Despite the Oilers' success in winning five Stanley Cups in a seven-year stretch, economics led to several players departing Edmonton. After the 1990/91 season, Messier publicly demanded a trade, which led to him being dealt to the New York Rangers for Louie DeBrusk, Bernie Nicholls, and Steven Rice.

Mark Messier was seen as a savior by fans of the New York Rangers, who were starved by a 50-year Stanley Cup drought. The Rangers appeared on the verge of ending the drought in Messier’s first season in New York as he won his second Hart Trophy, leading the Blue Shirts to the best record in the regular season. However, the Rangers sputtered in the playoffs and then missed the playoffs altogether in 1993. The Rangers bounced back and again posted the best record in the regular season in 1994, but once again appeared to be heading for disappointment down 3-2 against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. In Game 6, after guaranteeing a win, Messier delivered a Natural Hat Trick as the Rangers went on to win the series in seven and win their first cup in 54 years.

Mark Messier was briefly reunited with Wayne Gretzky in New York, but a contract dispute led the Rangers Captain to sign a three-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks in 1997. After three disappointing seasons in Vancouver, Messier returned to the Rangers and finished his career in Rangers blue, becoming one of the all-time fan favorites as he ended his career with 694 goals, with 1,887 points, which was ranked second overall until 2017 when he was knocked into third place by Jaromir Jagr.