SUN Hockey Pool

Mom's big surprise

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:52 PM ET

To Mary Jean Messier it's overwhelming.

She figured her son Mark had the potential to become a professional hockey player.

But to accomplish all he's accomplished? Not in her wildest dreams.

"I guess I always saw signs that he could play pro because he loved the game so much," Mary Jean said. "He and his brother Paul would play all the time and they would be out there for hours and hours at the outdoor rinks.

"I knew his love for the game. I never thought it would be like this, but as he got older I thought he might have a chance that he could be a pro.

"But never did I expect anything like this."

Yesterday the Messier family was on hand during a civic ceremony at Sir Winston Churchill Square.

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The event included video clips of Messier's best moments from an outstanding 25-year career. It concluded with the renaming of St. Albert Trail to Mark Messier Trail.

"It's a special day and I can't thank the people of Edmonton enough for showing great support and love for Mark," Mary Jean said. "But to name a road after him was more special. What can you say to something like that?

"My family has been here for five generations and to see something like that happen, it's amazing and emotional."

Last night the family also attended a gala in honour of Mark. It featured a number of former teammates from his days with the Oilers.

Tonight they'll all be on hand as the Oilers raise Messier's number to the rafters alongside Al Hamilton, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey.

"I'm excited about it," Mary Jean said. "I'm looking forward to it. In New York it was very emotional having his sweater retired for the first time.

'EMOTIONAL PART'

"Just the leaving of the game was the emotional part, and I think it will be here as well."

Messier spent 12 years in Edmonton with the Oilers, winning five Stanley Cups. He won another with the New York Rangers.

The St. Albert native was originally drafted by the Oilers in 1979, the year they joined the National Hockey League.

"We've all felt a part of what he's done," said Messier's father Doug. "A lot of the boys are now pretty good hockey players and when they were watching the highlights over there, it was the first time some of them had seen them. It was pretty impressive. It was good.

"We've got a lot of relatives here. When the kids and the grandchildren get older, it's not going to be easy to get everyone together.

"Basically this is the first chance for us all to get together in years. It's great."

Tonight's banner-raising ceremony is expected to be an emotional event for the entire family, especially for Mark.

As competitive as Messier was, he also has a soft spot.

Fans got a preview of it yesterday during the civic ceremony when he took the podium.

'LOVE OF PEOPLE'

"I think that comes from his love of people and where he comes from," Mary Jean said.

"We're a very close family and he's a special person. Even I knew that when he was a young boy."


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