Having a famous hockey name has provided some amusing moments for one of the newest Walleye players.
The first question most people ask Toledo forward Jesse Messier is if he is related to former NHL great Mark Messier. While the answer is no, sometimes Messier likes to have fun with it.
“A lot of people ask me that,” said Messier, who has played in nine games for the Walleye since signing with the team on March 5. “Growing up playing hockey, I've heard that since I was little. So I've grown accustomed to it. Sometimes in juniors if a new guy joined the team I would tell them I was [Messier's] son. The boys would keep it going and it was funny to see how long they would believe it.”
The first-year pro from Keswick, Ontario, said sharing the famous name with the NHL hall of famer has had other benefits.
“As soon as someone mentions it, it brings a smile to my face. I get a kick out of it,” Messier said. “It could be a tough name to pronounce, so maybe it's good he made it famous.”
Messier, who recently wrapped up a college career at York University in Ontario, has scored three goals and has one assist with the Walleye.
Messier is among a handful of rookies that the organization has recently signed right out of college. The first-year pros are auditioning for jobs next season for a Toledo team that has been eliminated from playoff contention.
“You always have something to play for,” Messier said. “I find every game you go out and want to do your best. If you play your game that is when you get noticed.
“I want to give [pro hockey] a shot. It's something I do want to try to pursue. Coming in here for the last 20 games, I'll get a feel for the league.”
But Messier, 26, is not the typical rookie. He played three seasons of junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League before going to college at York.
In 182 OHL games, Messier scored 59 goals and had 66 assists. Then in 131 college games for York, Messier collected 55 goals and 74 assists along with 305 penalty minutes.
Walleye coach Dan Watson said Messier has good hockey sense.
“Jesse is a hard-working player who competes and is willing to play in those hard to play areas,” Watson said. “He has valuable leadership qualities. Jesse is effective when he is winning battles and going to the net hard.”
Messier served as York's captain for the last two seasons and led the team in scoring for three straight years.
“It worked out really well [at York],” Messier said. “I felt it was really important to get an education. I worked on my game for a few more years. I worked on the offensive side of my game.”
Messier said he believes he plays a complete game.
“I have the ability to play in the offensive and defensive zones,” he said.
He said one of the biggest adjustments to the pro level has been to the overall competitiveness.
“The speed of the game was the first thing I needed to adjust to,” he said. “There is no time you can let up. There are no breaks in the game.”
Messier said he is still working to complete his degree in kinesiology and health science.
“I'm still taking a couple of classes and I'm completing them online,” Messier said. “I've always been interested in learning about the body and health. I want to get my strength and conditioning coaching certificate.”
But Messier said his top priority is improving his game while helping the Walleye win. Toledo (19-38-5) captured three out of four points last weekend and snapped a 12-game home losing streak. The team nearly matched the ECHL record for longest home winless streak. Johnstown set that mark with 13 straight home losses in 2009-10.
“It was definitely big to get those three points, especially at home. It was good for the fans and the guys,” Messier said. “This team never gives up. We have a bunch of pride. It was good for morale and we'll keep pushing.”
The Walleye have 10 games remaining. They play at Wheeling on Friday and at Kalamazoo on Saturday before returning home Sunday to host the K-Wings.
“Every guy believes we can win,” Messier said. “There's always a positive energy on the bench. We all want to learn and improve.”
While Messier is living out his dream of playing pro hockey, he still has yet to meet his namesake Mark Messier, who won six Stanley Cups while playing in the NHL for 25 seasons. But he knows what he would say to the legend if he ever met him.
“I'd ask him if he is related to Jesse Messier,” he said, laughing.
ON THE HOOK with Jesse Messier
■ Position: Forward
■ Jersey Number: 26
■ Ht./Wt.: 6-0, 190
■ Birthplace: Keswick, Ont.,
■ Age: 26
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the rink: I'm doing a lot of schoolwork right now. I'm getting to bond with the guys.
■ Hockey players you admired growing up: Doug Gilmour, Joe Sakic, and Steve Yzerman.
■ Favorite sport other than hockey: I enjoy all sports. I'm a big football fan. I'm also a big Blue Jays fan. All the guys got into [an NCAA] bracket pool. That's always fun.
■ Favorite type of music: Anything. I like the house music we play in the dressing room.
■ Favorite meal? Steak
■ Have you ever eaten walleye? Yes
■ Favorite beverage: Tim Horton's coffee
■ Best fast food: Tim Horton's
■ Favorite movie: Flight
■ Favorite TV show: Suits
■ Favorite video game: NHL
■ Favorite Web site: NHL.com.
■ Do you have a twitter account? @messman71. I haven't been very active.
■ Person you most admire: Parents, Roger and Weddy
■ If you could meet any person who would it be? Mark Messier
■ Favorite place you've been to? I've never really vacationed anywhere warm.
■ Top sports moment: Scoring my first pro goal [March 3 at Cincinnati]. They got the puck for me.
■ What's your hockey superstition? It's more of a routine. I put my stuff on the same way.
■ Nickname: Mess
■ Something nobody knows about you: I'm a good cook. I like cooking everything.