Mark Messier reacts at his jersey retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden in January, with former teammate Adam Graves, left, looking on. ((Kathy Willens/Associated Press))

Mark Messier, long rumoured to have an interest in NHL management, is to be groomed by his former coach.

Messier on Sunday was named special assistant to New York Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather.

"I am looking forward to joining the Rangers organization and having the opportunity to learn a new part of the business, working closely with Glen," Messier said in a statement.

"I have felt a strong connection to the Rangers, Madison Square Garden and the city of New York from the moment I arrived in 1991. I am honoured to begin this new chapter of my career here."

Messier expressed some interest in the job of New York's assistant GM after Don Maloney left to become the GM of the Phoenix Coyotes in May 2007, but didn't return to the Rangers then.

Messier played his final game with the Rangers on March 31, 2004 — during his second stint with the team — and scored his 694th goal.

He announced his retirement on Sept. 12, 2005, after the year-long NHL lockout.

Messier's No. 11 was retired by the Rangers and raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters in January 2006.

Messier, a 48-year-old Hall of Famer, spent 10 seasons in New York and led the Rangers to a Stanley Cup title in 1994.

Traded to Big Apple in big trade

The 16-time NHL all-star went to New York on Oct. 4, 1991, in a blockbuster trade with the Edmonton Oilers — where Sather served as Messier's coach and GM. Messier was named Rangers captain in his first home game three days later after making his debut with the team on Oct. 5.

Messier scored 694 goals with 1,193 assists during his 25-year career, winning five Stanley Cups with Edmonton before being traded to New York in 1991. He also later played with Vancouver.

"Mark is one of the greatest players in the history of the National Hockey League," Sather said in a statement.

"I have witnessed him grow throughout his career and am looking forward to him joining the organization and learning a whole new part of the hockey business."

Messier ranks second behind longtime teammate Wayne Gretzky on the NHL career scoring list with 1,887 points. He is seventh in goals and third in assists (1,193).

Messier was the first player to captain two franchises to the Stanley Cup, first leading the Oilers to the title in 1990.