In a decision that is certain to cause Vancouver Canuck hockey fans to cringe, former NHL star, for 3 of those years an unpopular and ineffective Canuck, Mark Messier was awarded $6 million Thursday. An arbitrator ruled Messier must be paid that amount.
Messier played for Vancouver from 1997-2000 and during his tenure there then-coach and GM Mike Keenan took the captaincy away from Trevor Linden - eventually trading Linden - and gave it to Messier. The former Edmonton Oiler and New York Ranger great, who became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, three years after his retirement, lead the Canucks during a period of turmoil that was unsuccessful on the ice and that saw attendance decline.
His contract was bought out after 3 seasons for $2 million and he resigned with the Rangers. However, the original contract was a five-year deal with a clause that said if the value of the Vancouver Canuck franchise was greater at the end of the deal than the beginning, he was to receive compensation. It was that clause which caused the 87-year-old New York-based arbitrator George Nicolau to find in favor of Messier, and award him the money.
Mark Messier: $26 million in total from Canucks
The current Canucks ownership group, Aquilini Investment Group, did not come to own any part of the team until 2004, two years after the 2002 expiration of the full Messier deal, and did not wholly own the team until 2006. American John McCaw was the owner when Messier signed and it is not publicly known what, if any, deal was made between the Aquilini and McCaw group when the purchase was made. It's possible McCaw remains on the hook for all or a part of the award. The current owners declined to comment on the ruling.
For a total that has now reached $26 million, over the three years Messier played for the Canucks the team and fans got 52 goals, 110 assists and 162 points from a player who was a -37, in 207 games. They also got zero playoff appearances.