John Tortorella hadn’t stepped forward to tell his side of the story as of Thursday night, to share his opinion on how several Rangers, including some top players, forced his firing one year after he led them to the Eastern Conference finals.

But even though the hockey world awaits perhaps one final interview for the ages, Tortorella's chapter in New York has closed, with attention now focused on an accelerated, month-long coaching search that general manager Glen Sather hopes to conclude by the June 30 NHL draft in Newark.

As the search began, a hush came over the Garden, which might as well be called the Secret Garden for the next several weeks. That started with Mark Messier, the revered Captain of the hallowed 1994 Stanley Cup team and the Rangers' special assistant to Sather since August 2009, respectfully declining comment through the organization on Thursday about their vacancy behind the bench.

Messier, 52, only has worked in the front office at the NHL level, but his proximity to Sather, knowledge and influence in the organization, as well as his historic significance to the franchise, make him one of the more intriguing candidates to fill Tortorella's shoes until he or the Rangers remove his name from the mix.

Ex-Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and ex-Canucks coach Alain Vigneault remain the most coveted available candidates, with other names such as Paul Maurice, Dave Tippett, Dallas Eakins, Guy Boucher and even former Rangers Cup-winning coach Mike Keenan floating around as potential targets.
But none of them is Messier. Not in New York.

Messier has coached before, though not in the NHL — he was the head coach of Team Canada for the 2010 Deutschland Cup and the 2010 Spengler Cup, in which his squad was comprised mostly of veterans contracted to European teams playing against overseas clubs in Switzerland.

Doug Shedden, 52, currently the coach of Ev Zug in the Swiss A-League, was an assistant to Messier on that Spengler Cup team and recalls him arriving hungry to immerse himself in the X’s and O’s, his only prior coaching experience having come at the youth level.

“Mark came over, we sat in a hotel room for five hours and he said, ‘Let’s go through the systems, let’s go through what you do,” Shedden told the Daily News Thursday from Switzerland. “He liked what I had to say, and we brought that approach to the Spengler Cup.”

Shedden pointed out how difficult it is for a coach in such a brief tournament to learn his players and apply that knowledge to all game situations, but said it was a great experience for Messier.