Edmonton's Mark Messier stepped out of Wayne Gretzky's shadow by winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player -- an award dominated by his former teammate.

Messier beat out Boston defenseman Ray Bourque by two points in the closest balloting ever for the trophy. St. Louis right wing Brett Hull was the other finalist for the award, which Gretzky won eight times with Edmonton and last year with Los Angeles. The voting is conducted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association before the playoffs.

Messier succeeded Gretzky as the Oilers' captain when he was sent to Los Angeles in August 1988. He led Edmonton to its fifth Stanley Cup in seven years last month. He was second to his former teammate and close friend in the regular season scoring race with 129 points.

"This is a great reflection of the type of year we had as a team," Messier said. "It is a great way to end the season."

Bourque won the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman; Hull, whose 72 goals set a league mark for right wings, won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanlike conduct.

Gretzky, who automatically won the Art Ross Trophy as top scorer, was not nominated for the Hart Trophy for the first time in his 11-year NHL career.

Sergei Makarov, who joined the Calgary Flames after playing on one of the world's top lines during his 11-year career in the Soviet Union, won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie; Montreal's Patrick Roy won the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender; Rick Meagher of the Blues won the Frank Selke Award as top defensive forward; Gord Kluzak of the Bruins, who's had 11 knee operations, won the Masterton Trophy for dedication to hockey; Bob Murdoch of Winnipeg won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

Named first-team all-star: Hull, Messier, Borque, Roy, left wing Luc Robitaille of Los Angeles and Al MacInnis of Calgary. . . .

Norman Green, a part owner of the Calgary Flames, has acquired 51 percent of the Minnesota North Stars to become the principal owner of the NHL team, which was sold last month to Howard Baldwin and Morris Belzberg.

Baldwin and Belzberg, who agreed to buy the North Stars from Gordon and George Gund, will share the remaining 49 percent. The deal is subject to approval by the NHL. . . .

Right wing Guy Lafleur, 38, said he will retire after the 1990-91 season.

Lafleur retired from the Montreal Canadiens in 1984, then made a much-heralded return with the New York Rangers in 1988. He played for the Nordiques last season. . . .

Russ Farwell, 34, general manager of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, was named general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. He succeeds Bob Clarke, who was fired in April after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.