New York fired head coach John Tortorella on Wednesday, four days after the Rangers were eliminated from the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Gretzky played for the Rangers from 1996 to 1999 before he retired from the NHL. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame not long after. The 52-year-old Gretzky, who remains the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer, coached the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005 to 2009.
Messier, also 52, starred for the Rangers from 1991-1997 and from 2000-2004 following a brief stint with the Vancouver Canucks. He played one season with Gretzky in New York in 1996-97 after winning four championships alongside him in Edmonton.
Messier, who helped the Rangers hoist the Stanley Cup in 1994, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, three years after hanging up his skates for good.
Both Gretzky and Messier began their NHL careers with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979. Both stars also played for the Canadian national team, and each would be under intense scrutiny and pressure to perform in New York.
Tortorella, who led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, took over head-coaching duties for the Rangers in early 2009, missing the postseason in his first full season before leading the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1997 in 2011-12.
The Rangers beat the Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs this spring before being bounced in five games by the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals.
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