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June 4, 2012

Mark Messier


MARK MESSIER:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Here we are back for another exciting finals.  For us, myself and Bridgestone, we're very excited to be here again this afternoon to announce the Bridgestone Youth Leadership Award.
We are very, very proud of this award.  I think this being the fourth year of the inception of it, it continues to inspire all of us because of the people that we've been able to come across through the submission letters and, of course, the winners.
This year is no different.  We had a tremendous amount of submission letters to people that have done incredible work through the community across both Canada and the United States.  But this year's winner was definitely a person who stood out.
Robert 'Knobby' Knudsen was an amazing man.  Born in circumstances that he could not have foreseen or control, he didn't use it as an excuse, but he used it to empower himself.  As he grew older, he became an advocate for helping children in many different ways.
I'd like right now to bring up his son Robert Knudsen, Jr., his grandson, Matt Knudsen.
As I said, Robert 'Knobby' Knudsen was an incredible guy, and the foundation he started in Windsor with the Minor Hockey Association, the Kids Skate for Kids program, the unbelievable amount of work he did solely for the children.
When I read the letter, it's one of those letters that brings you to your knees with gratitude and inspiration for the things he did so selflessly for the children and his community.
We felt in talking to the folks from Bridgestone there would be no better winner, to try to preserve the legacy he left with his son, his grandson, his foundation there, to be part of trying to preserve this incredible initiative that he started.
So with that, I would like to announce the winner of the Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award, and here to accept it are the three gentlemen.
ROBERT KNUDSEN, JR.:  Thanks very much.  I'll keep it brief.  I just want to thank Mark, along with Bridgestone and the NHL, for this prestigious award.  It's very honorable for our family.  So with that said, I just want to say one thing that my dad lived by, and it's just a little quote.  It won't take long to read.
100 years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much was in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like.  But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child.
That's what my dad lived by.  So, again, thanks very much.  It's really appreciated.
MARK MESSIER:  Congratulations, guys.
Also this afternoon, we'd like to continue on with our Mark Messier Leadership Award finalists for, again, this year 2012.  Again, it's always tough to come up with three finalists.  As you can imagine, the amount of candidates we have to choose from for the award, and the amount of unbelievable initiatives that the players are doing off the ice, and, of course, their on‑ice leadership skills, in the community, for their teams and organizations.
This year we felt we were honored to be able to announce Dustin Brown of the LosAngeles Kings, Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes, and Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers as the three finalists for this year's award.
Again, three players that have had incredible seasons on the ice, leading their teams to tremendous successes throughout the entire season and in the playoffs.
Their work in the communities are incredible.  The professionalism they've all displayed on and off the ice in their communities, raising awareness with the children, for their individual charities, is very inspiring, as I said.
I think that we have a lot to celebrate in our game.  In the position that I am right now, to be able to look into these players, see exactly what they're doing off the ice, is really incredible.  I think it's something we can really celebrate as a league and be proud of these players and to recognize the things they're doing well.  Hopefully this award does that.
We want to recognize the goodness that our players display, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well, because we feel that's a big part of being a professional.
I'd like to thank Phil Pacsi, who is here, and Bridgestone, for believing in these two awards and continuing their support over the last couple years.  Hopefully we can keep it going and make it bigger and better.
So with that, congratulations to the three finalists, and we'll be announcing those winners obviously at the awards show in Las Vegas.
With that, I guess I could take a couple questions for anybody that has any questions.

Q.  With Dustin being a finalist, can you comment on the campaign he's had, his leadership style, approach as a captain.
MARK MESSIER:  I think obviously he's been brought more into the spotlight because of the success they've had in the playoffs this year.  But if you look at Dustin, speaking to the L.A. Kings, their PR department, Luc Robitaille, people he's been around, it's not surprising to them.  The charity work he's done, the foundation he started, has been quite remarkable for a young man of his stature.  I shouldn't say kid, but he's still a young player.
To be a captain, to have that kind of maturity level, that kind of initiative off the ice.  A lot of times it's all you can do to concentrate, get yourself ready to play the game.  So to be able to have that presence to not only play well and do the things you're responsible for as a captain for the hockey team, lead your hockey team, but have the initiative to go beyond that and reach out into the community, help the kids, help the children out, I think it's a remarkable year he's had.
Of course, you get recognition by playing well in the playoffs because the focus obviously is generated into fewer and fewer teams.  So I think we're seeing a lot more of Dustin Brown, what he's meant to this organization these last few years come this Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Q.  Mark, the Kings are two wins away of going 16‑2 in the playoffs.  I was wondering if you can recall what it was like for you guys when you went 16‑2, how difficult that was.
MARK MESSIER:  Yeah, I have vague memories.  It certainly doesn't feel like 16‑2 when you're in the middle of it.  I can remember talking to people in some of the playoff years we had in Edmonton, I was trying to explain it to them, how difficult it was to win.  They were going, Yeah, but you only lost two or three games during the playoff run, it couldn't have been that hard.
But every game feels like it's a do‑or‑die situation.  You don't feel like you have a 16‑2 record, 14‑2, whatever the record is now.
I can honestly say I have a vague recollection of it, but I always remember any Stanley Cup run I was in, win or lose, being very difficult, no matter how good the record was.
You're all trying to get 16 wins.  You're all trying to figure out a way to get the 16 wins.  But I think in today's parity, with the way the game is right now, 10 wins in a row in the playoffs, losing two games to this point, is pretty remarkable.

Q.  Mark, Martin Brodeur is back in the playoffs again.  Must bring back memories for you.  Also this series that just ended with the Devils, what was going through your mind?  Everyone was talking about 1994.
MARK MESSIER:  Yeah, it really was.  It was an incredible time for myself.  When I think of all our teammates, a lot of the teammates were texting back and forth throughout the series, talking about the series.
I was trying to really kind of stay out of the way during the series.  I really felt that the players that were on both teams, not only just for the Rangers, but the Devils, really had earned the right to be in that position there.  I don't think it should have been overshadowed by the things that happened prior to that series.
Like I said, my ship had sailed a long time ago.  But it was an incredible series back in '94, with probably the two best teams in the league that year playing for the conference final.  It turned out to be an epic series, probably some of the best hockey I've ever played.
Of course, Marty Brodeur, what he's done for the game, the Devils, all that.  Being in New York, there were a million story lines that he could have taken.  I think it was great for hockey because there were so many stories to write and stories to tell.  So from a journalistic standpoint, it was another great time for hockey and a great place to be.

Q.  What the Kings are doing now, do you have a better level of appreciation than most for what they've been able to accomplish because you've been there in '88?  If you could speak to that, that level of appreciation that it gives you.
MARK MESSIER:  Yeah, I think so.  I think one of the things I've talked about and am probably most proud of, being to seven finals in 10 years, knowing what it takes to get to one final.  Players asking me, talking about that, what it would have been like to be a part of something like that over that 10‑year period.  Then you add in some Canada Cups, some All‑Star Games.  It was a lot of hockey in that year, a lot of hard hockey.
I can certainly appreciate what they're going through and the position they're in, how hard they've had to work in order to get there.  And then to kind of add on to it there, to be able to continue to do it is another thing.
Like I said, in today's game, with the amount of parity in the league right now, to be in the position they are, is it 14‑2 now, like I said, it's pretty remarkable.

Q.  You remember what it was like when you and the boys would come down 30 years ago with the state of hockey in this community, even through the mid '90s.  As you look back and people talk about the impact the Oiler teams had on putting finesse on the game, I'm curious what your thoughts are?  I would think you're awfully proud the direction the league is headed in right now.
MARK MESSIER:  Yeah, I think so.  I think the rule changes certainly help in that regard.  The game was becoming quite stagnant for a while.  It was kind of hard to tell, let's say for a fan that wasn't a full‑time hockey fan that tuned into the game and watched it, the star players weren't that identifiable.  So I think we've done a great job of getting the speed, the artistry, the skill back into the game, but still allowing the players to battle and fight for the prime real estate on the ice.
I think that's a big component of the game, especially in playoff hockey.  I can always remember watching games when I was a kid growing up, and they would shoot to a replay of a battle being waged in front of net, and the puck wouldn't even be there.  I think that's what playoff hockey really is all about, it's the will to win, doing whatever it takes to gain an advantage, and trying to take the will away from your opponent.
Over four seven‑game series, the teams that are able to sustain it over that period of time, are the ones that usually come out on top.
To your point, to see the skill in the game right now, to see the young kids coming into the game with the amount of skill they have, the size they have, the strength they have, the endurance, the conditioning, it just makes the game better.
I think I can objectively watch the games still just as a fan and really enjoy watching the games.  Because I played the game and understand the game probably as well as I do, really appreciate the efforts and the skill level that's being displayed on the ice from all the teams.
So from that regard, as you said, the NHL, I don't think they could be happier with the way things have gone the last few years, the amount of young star talent that's emerging in the league right now.

Q.  I was wondering if you could talk overall how the Rangers are positioned going forward, especially with Callahan as a captain, maybe how Gaby's injury might impact the team going forward there?
MARK MESSIER:  I think the Rangers, obviously we're very proud of the team.  I think the last three years have been a real bright spot for the team and the organization.  I think Glen has really done a good job of getting some key people in the right spots.
I think the year we had this year is a culmination of a lot of hard work over the last couple years.  I can say it because, you know, the coaching staff, but I know the coaching staff was unbelievably proud of the team, of the way they played this year from start to finish.
I think going forward now, Larry wrote it, you can't quantify how important it is for these players to play this kind of playoff hockey for this long a period of time, to feel what it's like to play that deep in the playoffs, the fatigue, the upsets, the disappointments, then you have to climb back.  Those are hard lessons to learn unless you've actually experienced them.
So from that standpoint, our team has really taken a major leap forward this year of figuring really what it takes to win.  Moving forward, as you can see, the teams that go on to win the Stanley Cup seem to get stronger as the playoff series go on.  That's a testimony to the depth they have in the organization there.
So for us this year, you know, the key thing will be to try to add to our depth so we don't have to use as many players as much as we did, and we can continue to keep our strength, barring any serious injuries obviously, a huge factor going forward, the less chance you have of wearing players down, getting injuries.  Of course, the Gaby injury.
I don't think there's one player that should have left our camp this year disappointed with the year that we had.  There's a tremendous amount of pressure on players to score goals in the playoffs, especially for the offensive guys.  I've been there myself.  I've been successful at times, and I've been unsuccessful at times.  There's a lot of pressure.
They don't make it easy for the star players to score goals.  That's why you need depth scoring.  Hopefully those players give you some timely goals along the way.
Marian Gaborik is 10 times the hockey player he was when he came to the New York Rangers three years ago.  He continues to improve, he continues to want to improve.  He was proud of the way he played.
Thanks for taking a few minutes for coming out and supporting the awards.  Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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