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June 2, 2010

Mark Messier


THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. We're going to get started. Without further adieu, Mark Messier.
MARK MESSIER: Well, thank you. Is this thing on? Thank you all for coming. It's hard to believe it's been four years. It has been four years now since we started the Mark Messier Leadership Award presented by the NHL and Bridgestone. I can honestly say that I'm very proud to have this award in my name. I think that it really kind of exemplifies all the things I feel are very important to our game, not only from an individual standpoint, but from a league standpoint. I'm proud of the fact that our players are doing such extraordinary things on and off the ice. I'm proud that we're able to bring them to the forefront and to expose the players. And I think in the end, what it really does is it really shines a great light on our game and on our sport and on the great players that are playing our sport.
The tough part is we have so many great players that are doing so many great things. Not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. And trying to come up with a winner where a league is filled with 7- or 800 players that are all doing tremendous things, is not easy.
With the help of the NHL, with the media, with the trainers, with the coaches, the players, the fans, collectively we were able to come up and narrow it down to three names. And I would just like to take a moment to talk about the three players that we have identified this year as finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
First nominee this year is Shane Doan from the Phoenix Coyotes. And I think everybody would be in agreement this year that under unbelievable trying circumstances this year at the start of the year which didn't look good for Phoenix, Shane did an amazing job keeping the team together in every aspect, on the ice, off the ice, taking what could have been a tremendous distraction and turning that into a very positive year. He was able to galvanize the team and play for each other. And collectively they not only had a tremendous season, but made it to the postseason.
I think everybody that I've talked to around the league and fans and everybody else are in agreement that he's definitely worthy of the nomination. The second nomination is Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres. And I think that having followed Ryan extensively over the years, watching him play on the ice, perhaps becoming the premier goalie in our game, unbelievable performance in the Olympics on the center stage of probably the highest profiled, or one of the highest profiled tournaments in international hockey. Just was outstanding. But more importantly, what he's been able to do off the ice as well. Both Shane and Ryan spent countless hours of not only participating in one charity but many, many charities in their communities. A role model in every sense of the word. A tremendous compassion for the children, and obviously a very worthy nominee.
And the final nominee this year is Sydney Crosby from the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think it's obvious what he's been able to do in a short amount of time in this game, is nothing short of extraordinary. I'm always leery about young players being named captain. I think it's obviously important for those players to have time to grow, to have time to make mistakes, not be put in position of leadership because it takes a tremendous amount of focus and concentration, not only for yourself, to get yourself prepared, but when you're in that position, you don't live one life, you live 25 lives.
It's amazing what he's been able to do all the while being a poster boy for the National Hockey League, going to two Stanley Cup Finals in the last two years, the game-winning goal in the Olympics this year, and just plays and composes himself so professionally on and off the ice.
Off the ice, another guy that gives himself countless hours, representatives many charities. Just has so much time for the children. Always helping children, whether they're sick or in hockey, and I think that's really struck me about these three finalists. Every one of them seems to have so much compassion, understanding and patience for the children in their areas. Not only in the areas in the markets that they play in, but also where they came from.
And so it is my pleasure to announce all three of those as this year's finalists. I couldn't be more happy, I couldn't be more proud to name all three as finalists. And I think, obviously any one of them would be tremendous recipients. But unfortunately, we'll only have one. We'll find out who that is at the Awards ceremony after the Playoffs are over.
We're also here for another very important nomination. And that is for the Mark Messier Leadership Award for Youth Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone and the NHL as well. This award probably means as much, or more to me than any award that I was a part of as a player or since retired. It started with an idea a few years back, and I can honestly tell you it has turned into something that I never dreamt would be this important to so many children and people and mentors around the country.
Neil Henderson has been providing mentorship, leadership, coaching, life lessons for over 34 years for the Dupont Ice Hockey Federation in Washington, D.C.
He's turned -- over 4,000 kids have gone through his program. He started in his own back parking lot with some ice, and he told me he started all the kids with their stick skills, with their gloves and sticks first, and then he took them skating and he married the two together.
I've known Neil for probably one hour now, and it feels like I've known him for my entire life, 70 years old. Still going strong. An amazing man.
He told three stories today before we came here that were unbelievably incredible just to hear after all these years, the sheer enjoyment he gets out of doing this for the children. Has never taken a dime.
And probably the most astounding fact or stat, if you will, that almost 95% of his kids that have gone through his program have all gone to college. He has some amazing success stories along the way.
So it is my pleasure and honor to announce Neil Henderson as the Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award winner for 2010.
I would like to turn it over to Neil so he can say a couple of words. Neil, congratulations.
NEIL HENDERSON: Thank you, Mark. I would like to thank all the people of that helped me get here tonight. I also would like to tell that you right now I'm on, I guess, Cloud 9. I've never been so humbled before in my life. I've met so many wonderful people through the years that I've been with hockey. And they are the greatest people that I have ever met.
I played all of the sports, but hockey is a love. It's addictive and it makes you humble. It makes you want to do more and more each time. I thank all of the people who wrote letters, who talked about me and my organization, with all of the help. I thank them for having me here today. Thank you so much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for coming.

End of FastScripts

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