Publish date:



Imagine what 21-year-old forward Dave Scatchard was thinking
last month when Mark Messier--Mark Messier!--invited him to
breakfast. When he was growing up in Hinton, Alberta, during the
1980s, Scatchard and his father would drive three hours to
Edmonton every other weekend just to watch Messier play. More
than a decade later, here was Messier giving Scatchard advice on
how to survive the Canucks' final cut. "Just do what you got
drafted to do," said Messier, who signed a three-year, $18
million free-agent deal with Vancouver over the summer. "This is
the right time for you to make this team."

This is the way the NHL's best leader works. He gets into your
head, whether you're a rookie or a 10-year veteran such as
center Trevor Linden, Vancouver's captain-in-name-only, who says
he's "learning from Mark by watching him every day." Even
disgruntled forward Pavel Bure appears to have caught Messier
fever only a month after asking general manager Pat Quinn for a
trade. Injuries to Bure's knee, hand, kidney and neck the past
two years had turned the Russian Rocket into a craft more
closely resembling Mir. But Bure entered camp in terrific shape
and was named the Canucks' best-conditioned player.

Though Bure hasn't backed away from his trade demand, Messier
has already started using his noted powers of persuasion. "Pavel
is a special player we need if we are to win a championship,"
says Messier, who won six Stanley Cups during his days with the
Oilers and the Rangers. "He's had a tough couple of years, but
the most important thing is that he wants to rebound and have a
great year."

Bure isn't the only question mark on Vancouver, which was
perhaps the NHL's biggest bust last year, suffering from
internal strife and missing the playoffs. Defense is a big
concern. The Canucks allowed 3.30 goals per game last season,
which left them tied for fifth worst in the league. Part of
their problem lies in net, where Kirk McLean has been a
disappointment since shining in the postseason three years ago.

In the meantime, Messier continues to establish himself as de
facto captain. "I don't really look at myself as a savior," he
says, "but I'm going to try to do the things that I've always
done: get to know the players and then take it from there."