Mark Messier wins $6m in Canucks grievance
Former player claimed team still owed him money
Photograph by: Mark Van Manen, PNG Files, Vancouver Sun
Mark Messier has been awarded a $6-million settlement in the Hall of Famer's long-standing grievance over money he claimed he was owed by the Vancouver Canucks.
George Nicolau, an 87-year-old New York-based arbitrator with a long history of handling high-profile sports arbitration cases, rendered his decision recently after meeting with both sides earlier this year. The Canucks made only a brief comment on the decision.
"Canucks Sports & Entertainment is aware of the arbitrator's decision and will have no further comment on the matter," the team said in a statement to The Vancouver Sun Thursday.
Messier did not return a message left for him with the New York Rangers, for whom he serves as special assistant to the president.
Messier signed a five-year, free-agent contract with the Canucks in 1997 for $6 million a season. The dispute between Messier and the team is believed to centre on deferred money the hockey player felt was owed to him.
It has been reported that Messier had a clause in his contract that would compensate him if the value of the Canuck franchise increased over the life of his contract, which expired in 2002.
Messier ended up playing only three seasons with the Canucks, who exercised an option in the contract to buy him out for $2 million after the 1999-2000 season.
Messier, now 51, returned to New York and played four more seasons for the Rangers before retiring after the 2003-04 season.
The Canucks struggled during Messier's tenure with the team. They had a losing record and missed the playoffs all three years. Messier had 52 goals and 162 points in 207 games with the Canucks.
Ownership of the team has changed hands since Messier played in Vancouver. He was signed by former owner John McCaw, who sold 50 per cent of the team and what was then called General Motors Place for a reported $150 million to Aquilini Investment Group in November 2004.
Two years later, the Aquilinis bought the remaining 50 per cent of the franchise and arena for what was reported to be another $150 million.
Last November, Forbes magazine pegged the value of the Canucks at $300 million US. In 1999, the magazine estimated the Canucks worth at $100 million US.
A spokesman for Francesco Aquilini said Thursday he had no comment and referred questions to the Canucks' management.
The National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association both refused to comment on the case.
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