By Cory Sander, griffinshockey.com
Dreaming of being around the stadiums, locker rooms, and the biggest names in hockey are typical for someone who loves the game. Luckily for forwards Dominic Turgeon and rookie Luke Esposito, they were born into it. Both forwards just so happen to come from families with professional hockey experience.
Turgeon’s father, Pierre, and uncle, Sylvain, both spent over a decade playing in the National Hockey League. Pierre spent 19 seasons in the NHL with six different franchises and tallied 1,327 points in 1,294 games. Sylvain completed 12 seasons while amassing 495 points in the NHL, and then played an additional six overseas in Europe.
As for Esposito, he had two uncles, Paul and Mark Messier, play professionally as well as his grandfather, Doug Messier. Paul came into his own in Germany where he recorded 398 points over the course of seven full seasons. Mark, a 2007 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, lifted the Stanley Cup six times during his quarter of a century stint in the NHL. Doug, father of Paul and Mark, spent nine seasons in the Western Hockey League before hanging up the skates to coach. His professional coaching career, which spanned a total of 10 seasons, was capped off in the AHL where he spent his last two with the Moncton Alpines.
Turgeon and Esposito answered some questions earlier this week about the game of hockey running in the family.
What was it like having a family member playing in the NHL while you were growing up?
Turgeon: “It was awesome. I got to do a lot of things other kids didn’t get to do. I got to go in the locker room and see the game at such a young age, which for me, was a dream come true. Being so young, I realized that I wanted to be a hockey player.”
Esposito: “It was a huge inspiration for me, probably the biggest reason why I got into hockey. I was born in New York, but I actually grew up down south in Florida and South Carolina when I was a kid. I don’t think I would have gotten into hockey if it wasn’t for my uncle Mark. I got to get on the ice with him a couple times a year when we would visit, and that was enough to keep me driven towards becoming a hockey player.”
Do you have a favorite hockey memory with your family members when you were a kid?
Turgeon: “I loved going to my dad’s morning skates, and hanging around the locker room after his games. I never went home with my mom after games because I wanted to stay around with my dad. I’d be going to bed super late and getting up early for school, but I loved it.”
Esposito: “I have a few, actually. My grandfather got to coach me from ages 15 to 18, which was pretty special. He was around the game a lot playing and coaching some in Alberta and in the AHL. He had about 30 years away from hockey and then came back to coach me, so it was pretty special for the both of us. We got to share a lot of car rides together where we grew really close.
I have a ton of memories with my uncle Mark, but my favorite was in 2004. It was his last year, and he made the NHL All-Star Game in Minnesota. We all went up there, got to go on the ice, and skate in the skills competition. It was pretty awesome.”
Did you ever get to see the Stanley Cup when Mark won it?
Esposito: “I was young when he won it in 1994, so I was only like six-months old at the time. I have a picture of me sitting in the Cup as a baby, which is pretty special.”
Do you have any siblings that play hockey?
Turgeon: “I have a younger sister playing hockey at Harvard right now.”
Esposito: “I have two younger brothers playing right now all within three years of each other. My youngest brother is about to turn 21, and he will play Division III college hockey at Wesleyan University. The middle brother is 22, and he is also playing Division III hockey at Amhurst College.”
In what aspect do you think your family members have impacted your game the most?
Turgeon: “Growing up, my dad was never too hard on me, but he was always there when I needed him. He taught me so many little things and about the game and little battles to focus on that has turned me into the player I am today. All the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years all began with my dad.”
Being born in Canada when your dad played for Montreal, what was it like moving around as your dad played for three more teams after the Canadiens?
Turgeon: “It was a little weird, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t mind it because I was so young. My parents live in Denver during the offseason now when my dad isn’t in-season coaching for the Los Angeles Kings.”
Do you see any similarities or differences in how you play the game compared to your family members?
Turgeon: “There might be some similarities, but I’d say we are mostly different. He was a really talented offensive player, and I’ve always tried to be a really good two-way player or a defensive player who can take care of our own end.”
Esposito: “I think I play a bit more like my uncles than my grandfather. He was a more bruising defenseman, but my uncles, who are both six feet tall and over, were more of the power forwards. Uncle Mark could do it all, but I try to bring a good amount of energy and aggression to the game like they did. Being a bit smaller than them, it’s a different type of aggression, but I think it helps when I’m more physically involved.”
Do you still look to your family members for hockey advice?
Turgeon: “Absolutely. My dad is my biggest role model, so I talk to him whenever I can. He tries to watch all my games whenever I need some feedback to help me out when he isn’t busy with the Kings.”
Esposito: “Of course. My uncle Paul currently scouts for the Edmonton Oilers and knows the AHL really well, so I talk with him a couple times a week. My grandfather and my uncles watch my games all the time and give me little pointers here and there. You get a good grasp on things playing four years in college, but this year has been an adjustment period. It’s been really nice having so many people to talk to and get different angles and pointers from.”
Have any of your teammates or opposing players ever recognized you or your name from your dad or uncle?
Turgeon: “Yeah, that used to happen more often before my dad retired when I was growing up as a kid. When he was still playing I got recognized quite a bit.”
What were the holidays like with your family members in the middle of their respective seasons?
Turgeon: “My dad was gone quite a bit with hockey, but we knew it was his job. My sisters maybe didn’t like it as much that he was gone all the time, but we knew that it was what he had to do. We loved that he played hockey, so we tried to support him as much as we could and understand the schedule that comes with it.”
Esposito: “It’s such a short break for the holidays sometimes, but we used to have Christmas at my grandparents’ house where we would have around 35 of us in there. There would be a few tables for the kids and a big table for the adults. Someone would always dress up as Santa, and my uncles would always get the kids all excited. It was a fun time having all of us together.”