Signed With Vancouver
In the 1997, Messier instead signed a three-year deal worth $20 million with the Vancouver Canucks. In Vancouver, he was again the team's captain and continued to play at high level, reaching many career milestones, including scoring his 600th goal. But the team struggled, never making the playoffs during his tenure.
When his contract was up in Vancouver, Messier returned to the Rangers, who now had former Edmonton general manager Sather as their general manager. The captaincy was returned to him. Though New York still struggled and did not make the playoffs, Messier was a leader on a problematic team. He continued to play past his 41st birthday, though he had injury problems that limited the number of games he played in. He planned on playing until he was 43, if his body held out.
In describing Messier as a leader, Charles McGrath wrote in the New York Times Magazine, "Messier is an authentically commanding figure who by force of his smoldering, dominating personality inspires—or scares—others into surpassing themselves. He leads by example, but also, when necessary, by hectoring, cajoling and preaching, and at times by stony, unforgiving silence. …"