January 18, 1998
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Q. Mark, when you were down 2-0, you had -- were you trying to raise the intensity with the crowd?
MARK MESSIER: Oh, absolutely. I think it just takes somebody to kind of get the ball rolling a little bit. I think everybody looked a little tentative at the start of the game. We found ourselves down 3-0 right off the bat and certainly didn't want to be embarrassed. I think we got the wake-up call when we started matching lines the first shift, wanted certain people out there. I think that kind of woke us up that they were serious about it. So we had to turn things around a little bit there. Certainly after getting down 3-0.
Q. Mark, it's been quite a game for you. Tied Oates for career assists in All-Star play, winning goal. What's that like for you on your birthday?
MARK MESSIER: I didn't hear what the record was.
Q. 12 career assists in All-Star play.
MARK MESSIER: Is that a record or something (laughter)?
Q. Yes, it is.
MARK MESSIER: I didn't even know that, to tell you the truth. For me today coming here, being a Commissioner's Choice, I look at it as a chance to represent Vancouver. You know, the people here, the fans have been unbelievable over the years that they've been involved in the National Hockey League. It's going to be a long time before Vancouver gets another All-Star Game. I think the people and myself and Pavel a chance to represent this city and the team and the organization. As far as playing, you know, we just try to get out there and play your hardest. I think the players really have played so much hockey in so little time. I think we all might have thought the game might be a little bit better than it was. But I think the players are a little bit drained at this point. The condensed schedule I think has taken a lot out of everybody. I think it showed a little bit.
Q. Mark, was this game a great way to celebrate your birthday, winning goal, playing with Wayne and Eric on the same line?
MARK MESSIER: Yeah. I'm extremely proud to be here. I think, you know, it's an interesting format now. There's a lot of great players that weren't able to come here, perhaps in a different format would have been. I'm not too much of anything that I can't accept a Commissioner's Choice to come here and be proud to be here and join in the festivities and have a good time.
Q. Mark, can you talk a bit about your play with Wayne tonight? I was wondering whether at any point in the evening you thought this might be the last time you and Wayne actually play together?
MARK MESSIER: No, I didn't think that. That never really crossed my mind. There is just some magic sometimes that happens that it never goes away. I think for whatever reason, the years we spent together in Edmonton, the style that we played, I don't think that ever really kind of goes away. You know, it just seemed to be right on the same tune right from the get-go, even tonight when we started playing together again. Sometimes just magic happens between players. I think that we worked at it to make that magic happen over the years. But it just felt it was like yesterday, we were doing it before.
Q. You've been asked two questions already, Mark, about your birthday. Are you in denial about your birthday? You haven't answered.
MARK MESSIER: No. I'm feeling pretty good, 37 years old. I never thought I'd be probably sitting here talking in front of y'all when I was 37 years old. You know, I think, I look at it the fact right now that I'm probably playing at a time in the National Hockey League where the game has never been better, probably never been as good as players in the game, as many superstars. Players are bigger and stronger. I guess the best part about it all is I'm still expected to compete and play at the same level as the younger superstars in the league. I guess that's what really motivates me and keeps me going, that the expectations are there to continue to play at that level. I think that's one of the things that certainly forces me or makes me want to compete at that level and work at it and work at my game on and off the ice, so I'm able to play at that level. Like I say, I guess the best part about it all at 37 is I'm still expected to do it. Can't ask for much more than that.
Q. Mark, could you describe your goal and the shorthanded assist? Whether you yelled to Wayne to pass to you?
MARK MESSIER: I don't think I had to yell to pass to me. I didn't have to yell for the puck. The first one, he just seemed to feed it through to me on the backhand. I didn't really have anywhere else to go other than that shot there, and happened to find the net. Wayne made a great play on the second one. I thought I had it beat through the five hole. But the Russian goalies play deep in their net. Looking back, I could have shot it when I first got it, but the puck was rolling a little bit. Thought I made the right play. Would have been nice for that one to go in, too.
Q. Since you've come to Vancouver, how often do you talk to Wayne?
MARK MESSIER: Well, it's hard, you know. Certainly three-hour time change, different schedules, I got the word what's going on from New York quite a bit. Playing out here, when we come into the dressing room, all the eastern games are on at 4:30 here, so we get a chance to see a period or two of all the eastern games here and there. But, you know, Leetch and Recchi, get it once in a while.
Q. You expressed confidence with the Canucks in the second half of the season. Talk about what the team needs to do to compete for a playoff spot?
MARK MESSIER: That's a tough question. I think all the areas of our game need to improve. I think we have made progress. I think the unfortunate part about the progress that we've made is that we haven't been able to show any signs of the progress that we've made because we haven't been able to win. But as far as what we need to do better in the second half, I think pretty well everything. I think we need to execute better. Our specialty teams have to be better if we're going to take a serious run at the second half and improve our record and make the playoffs. But, you know, I think the most important thing is to really concentrate on the good things that have happened to the team in the last month and a half. There's so much negativity that can enter into the whole equation because of where we stand in the standings. The last 15 games or 14 games, so many things that aren't good, it's really important to concentrate on the positive things that have happened. And there are some. We just haven't been able to win to show the signs of it.
Q. Mark, given your performance today and the flavor and the feel of this game, is there any more of a longing for you to be with the Olympic team? Are you going to miss that experience even more today?
MARK MESSIER: I'm not going to miss it any more just because of the game today. I've stated all along, you know, I would have really enjoyed to experience playing in the Olympics. It's probably the only thing I haven't been able to do at this point anyways, is play in the Olympics. Obviously it's incredibly disappointing. But, you know, I've always enjoyed the competition more than anything. I think I've learned a lot playing in the Canada Cups, playing with the best players in the world, playing against the best players in the world in those tournaments. So I think it certainly helped my game playing against the best players. I've certain enjoyed them. It's going to be a big disappointment.
Q. Mess, how has the adjustment been going back to Vancouver with Mike Keenan? Is he sorting things out here? How many changes do you expect in the second half of the season?
MARK MESSIER: I don't really know. I think the situation Mike finds himself in is coming to a team where he basically didn't know any of the players here. I think there's only myself and Brian who had ever played under Mike before that knew him, what he expected of the team. I think there's been a little bit of a transition between and Mike and the players, and the players and Mike. But, you know, I really have a lot of confidence in Mike. I think obviously he has a winning program. His record speaks for itself. The years that I've spent with him in New York and the two Canada Cups, you know, have been great. But it's going to take some time to get things turned around, there's no question about it.
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