messier-mark-cp-1990

Mark Messier, seen in 1990, won five of his six Stanley Cups as an Oiler. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press) )

An Edmonton historical societyis urging councillors to reconsider renaming part of St. Albert Trail in honour of retired Oiler Mark Messier on Monday.

The road has been called St. Albert Trail for a century and a half, a name that echoes itspast as a historic trade and settlement route,said Bradley McDonald, president of the Edmonton and District Historical Society.

Renaming it after a hockey player is a hasty decision that trades Edmonton's earliest days for the city's more recent history, he said.

"Messier was certainly a great contributor to our sports history and certainly the city is very fond of its Oilers of that era. And certainly I think somebody of his stature should be recognized somehow, but it's important to find an appropriate way to recognize people," he said.

Messier, who retired from the NHL in 2005, will have his No. 11 raised to the rafters when Edmonton hosts the Phoenix Coyotes at Rexall Place on Tuesday.

On Monday,the portion of St. Albert Trailwithin thecity of Edmonton's borderswill be renamed during a rallyat Winston Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton.

City spokesman Robert Moylessaid there wasn't time to go through the city's naming committee, which includes historical experts, because council only learned in December that Messier was coming to the city for the jersey raising.

Gretzky Drive OK: historian

Edmonton has plenty of streets with names of no historical significance that could have been selected instead, said McDonald.

The renaming of the Capilano Freeway to Gretzky Drive in 1999 was a sound decision from a historical point of view because the road was named after the surrounding neighbourhood, said McDonald.

"It was a name of convenience, because it happened to go through that neighbourhood of Capilano.But there wasn't really a historical significance, there wasn't a regional significance, it was one of those names that was just a name."

Messieris the NHL's second-leading scorer behind the incomparable Gretzky, who will take part in the pre-game tribute to his longtime friend and teammate with the Oilers and New York Rangers.