Was Mark Messier greater than Mario Lemieux? Fan debate

Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux's credentials are equally impeccable. They would clearly make the roster of any all-time National Hockey League team.

But, what if a general manager could only have one of these great players lead their squad. Who would be chosen?

As with all hypothetical hockey scenarios, those who don't take 'rink think' all that seriously will enjoy this debate. Most true fans value an appreciation and evaluation of all legends.

Messier and Lemieux were both great, but who was the greater player?

Messier

The four Edmonton Oiler Stanley Cup-winning teams that Mark Messier was a part of, from 1984 to 1988, were all led by Wayne Gretzky. Even though Messier won the Conn Smythe trophy in the spring of 1984, Gretzky's presence generally overshadowed everyone else on the ice.

After Gretzky was traded, Messier went on to win another Cup with the Oilers in 1990. The Edmonton, Alberta native was then traded to the New York Rangers in 1991.

A few years after arriving on Broadway, the 6 foot 1 inch, 210 pound forward willed the 'Blue Shirts' to their first Stanley Cup championship in over five decades. The image of him proudly hoisting the silver chalice, in the spring of 1994, was one of hockey's indelible moments.

'Mess' began playing professionally in 1978, when he was 18-years-old. He stopped playing in 2004, when he was 43-years-old. That 1,756 game endurance mark allows him to rank second to Gordie Howe on the all-time games played list.

Having 694 goals and 1,193 assists, along with numerous other statistical accomplishments, earned the two-time Hart Memorial trophy winner his lofty status.

But, number 11s greatest number is six, which represents the total number of Cups won. Because in the sport of hockey, it's all about the silver.

Lemieux

'Super Mario' Lemieux became one of the rare people to play in the National Hockey League after he had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. That happened when he left the game for an extended period of time to battle Hodgkin's disease, beat it and then returned to the ice.

The 6 foot 4 inch, 230 pound, center played seventeen seasons in the NHL. His 690 goals, 1,033 assists and 915 games-played totals would have each been enhanced had not missed those three prime seasons of his career when he was in his early thirties.

The lifetime Pittsburgh Penguin created one of the greatest seasonal performances in hockey history during the 1988-89 season. In 76 games, he scored 85 goals. Thirty-one of those goals came on the power play and another 13 while his team was shorthanded. He also added 114 assists and had 100 penalty minutes.

Lemieux played in 38 playoff games during the Penguin's back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning years in the early 1990s. He easily won both season's Conn Smythe trophies when he scored 32 goals and had 46 assists, for an average of more than two points per game.

The current Penguin's co-owner and chairman was also a three-time Hart Memorial trophy winner.

Okay, so who is it?

Any General Manager wouldn't go wrong by choosing either man to lead their team.

Messier and Lemieux never let anyone gain the advantage while they were on the ice.

Who was the greater player? Every hockey fan's opinion matters, so let the debate rage on.

I became a Flyers fan during the mid-1970s and consider street hockey to be the winter version of wiffle ball. Read my Sports Blog: Insight and follow me on Twitter @ SeanyOB

More from Sean O'Brien and the Yahoo Contributor Network:

The mystery behind these 1970s Flyers Topps hockey cards is revealed

These six NHL legends would start on any all-time team

Did Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky produce the greatest season of all-time?

The Flyers five greatest warriors

Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.


Follow Yahoo! Sports' NHL coverage on Twitter.
Updated Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011