One of the first times Chilliwack Chiefs star Luke Esposito made an appearance in a British Columbia newspaper, he was tussling with a hockey legend at an NHL all-star game.
Being Mark Messier's nephew can create unique sets of circumstances.
The offspring of Messier's sister Mary-Kay has turned into a legitimate pro prospect, it seems. After last weekend's games in Prince George, the 19-year-old Esposito, from Greenwich, Conn., was second in the Junior A loop in scoring, with 55 points, including 14 goals, in 40 games. He's also already committed to play next year for the Harvard University Crimson, the famed Ivy League team from Cambridge, Mass.
To think we knew him when. Go back in the files of The Province and you can find a four-year-old Luke getting checked by Uncle Mark during the 1998 NHL all-star game festivities at GM Place.
You can find another shot of a two-year-old Luke after a Team Canada practice in Whistler prior to the 1996 World Cup.
And how about this cutline that appeared in the Edmonton Journal to go with a picture from that 1998 all-star appearance? It read: "In a game of shinny, our money is on the little guy with the big future. Luke Esposito, four-year-old nephew of Mark Messier, shows Uncle Moose some stick-handling skills during a break at the all-star bash on Saturday."
"He's been there all throughout," said Esposito, whose family lives about five minutes from Messier in Greenwich.
"When I was picking places to play, he was there. He's helped my grandpa coach a number of my teams when I was younger.
"He's been great for me."
Hockey folk automatically wonder if the 5-foot-10, 180 pounder is related to Phil and Tony Esposito, which he's not.
They eventually find out that he's part of the Messier clan and he maintains that it's not added pressure, explaining instead: "I look at it as a great opportunity to talk to him. I use my uncle, and my grandpa, too, as a resource."
He does flip-flop on that a little, though, when pushed.
"I like to show that I can actually play," he said. "I like to prove that I am not in the spot I am because of my uncle."
His grandpa, more commonly known as Doug Messier, did have a role in him picking the Chiefs, for what it's worth.
In the midst of putting up 14 goals and 47 points in 29 games with his Brunswick Prep high school team in Greenwich last year, Esposito heard from a couple of universities-including Harvard -that he might be better off spending a campaign in Junior A and steered him toward the BCHL.
The family began doing research. Doug had coached longtime Chilliwack bench boss Harvey Smyl when he was playing junior. Everything was logical.
"My grandpa knew what kind of player Harv was and what kind of guy he was," said Esposito.
"It's great playing for him. He knows what this league is all about. He knows what it takes to win. Having him out in front is a benefit to all of us."
-With Files From Tyler Olsen, The Times