The newspaper article, almost a year old now, is still mounted by magnets on the grandparents’ refrigerator.
There’s a picture of the Arlington Catholic High School girls’ hockey team celebrating its Division 1 state title at the TD Garden last March, with an accompanying cutout photo of Megan Messuri as a Globe All-Scholastic.
Whenever Annie Messuri comes over to the house, the articles must come down. Her Acton-Boxborough Regional squad, which entered last season’s postseason tournament with the No. 1 seed, was eliminated by Braintree in the quarterfinals, one round away from getting a shot at her cousin.
A trip to the Garden would have been hardly the most important thing on the line in that hypothetical matchup.
When it comes to the Messuri family, hockey is part of the diet.
“It was just a way of life,” said Megan, who set an Arlington Catholic school record with seven shutouts in goal last season as a sophomore. “Get up in the morning, put on your skates — that's just the way it was. The day I could walk, my dad put skates on me.”
The story starts way before Megan arrived at Arlington Catholic after being “incubated” in her backyard rink in Winchester for years, as her father, Michael, likes to explain. And before Annie returned home and enrolled at Acton-Boxborough after a year at Canterbury School in Connecticut, to clear up the rumor that had Colonials coach Brian Fontas holding his breath. “I was like, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ ” he recalls.
At the top of the family tree sits Tony and Annette Messuri, the grandparents whose refrigerator decor remains in question.
Tony climbed telephone polls for a living, making hardly enough money for hockey equipment (Michael played goalie anyway), yet built a 20-foot by 20-foot rink in his Arlington yard. That tradition still continues, with sons Michael, Dave (Annie’s father, who played in Europe after college), and John (now the Arlington High boys’ coach, after 15 seasons at Winchester High, who spent a few years in the minor league circuit following an electric career at Princeton) all building rinks in their own yards. Tony Jr. is an assistant coach for the Arlington High girls’ team.
“A good day for me is in our backyard teaching two or three kids hockey,” Dave Messuri said.
Following last weekend’s blizzard, Megan could hear her dad, Michael, snowblowing their rink at 3 a.m. Later that morning, with 2 feet of snow surrounding the boards, Michael was giving lessons.
“I’m running a clinic with three kids and we’re in the rain shooting pucks,” he said. “I’m saying, ‘Guys, this is how you make a hockey player. Everybody else is at home playing Xbox with a day off of school.’”
That hockey-over-anything mentality is what allowed John to be successful at college. He’s sure of it.
Tony Sr. attached John to a scarf and slapped on a pair of skates as soon as he could walk, another tradition that is still alive, but for John it was a little different. Six years younger than his siblings, he remembers taking a trip to the hospital every two weeks for stitches.
“We grew up in a two-family in East Arlington,” he said. “Our house had a tin garage. By the time I turned 12, the garage became dysfunctional. Eventually, one day we’re eating supper and it just fell from all the pucks hitting it over the years.
“Nothing worked. I remember one of our cars losing the radiator, the puck going through the radiator of the car. It was endless.”
The only thing the Messuris love more than talking about their own hockey-playing days is talking about their children’s hockey-playing days.
Enter Annie and Megan.
Megan, whose older brother Mikey helped lead John’s Winchester squad to the Super 8 tourney and is now playing goalie for Salve Regina University, is barely 5 feet tall, but her aggressive efforts to cut down angles and incredible reflexes have kept her among the best goalies in the state the past two seasons. She spent her freshman year at Dexter School.
“We consider Megan just stopping through at AC,” said John, pointing his comments at the school’s athletic director, Dan Shine, who grew up playing in the Messuri’s backyard. “They needed to get their girls’ program straightened out, so we had to send Megan through there.”
Megan insists her dad is the looniest of the Messuri clan.
“Even at home, my dad doesn’t talk about anything else,” she says. “I don’t remember the last conversation I had with him that didn't mention hockey.
“You think I’m just exaggerating for the paper, but nope, it's 24-seven. Dinner, breakfast — the first thing when I wake up in the morning he’s talking about hockey. He prints out rinks and he draws plays before the game. I’m not even a player, I’m the goalie, and he’s drawing up these plays.”
Annie’s life hasn’t been much different. The 5-foot-5 junior defenseman returned from a shattered knee cap that caused her to miss her entire freshman season, and went to work with her dad in the backyard until skating backward felt as natural as trash-talking at a family dinner.
“I committed myself,” she said. “I decided to get in better shape and become the best hockey player I could be.”
Fontas uses Annie as the go-to person on the power play. Her dad had her practice with 10-pound weights instead of 6-ounce pucks, powering up a slap shot that has been clocked in the yard at 48 miles per hour. She’s tallied 12 goals and 10 assists in 15 games (she missed Acton-Boxborough’s first two due to a broken wrist) all while being a shutdown defenseman and an “ultimate penalty-killer,” Fontas said.
The pressure of having Messuri printed on the backs of their uniforms hasn’t gone unnoticed, Annie and Megan are both quick to point out. But with Acton-Boxborough at 12-4-1 and Arlington Catholic at 12-2-2 through Monday, there’s a chance the two cousins could face off in the postseason.
They’d have to rent a private bus just to transport family members, Dave said, only half joking.
But the grandparents would be torn.
“They’re all for the public schools,” Annie said.
Naturally, Megan countered: “No, they’d root for me.”
There’s only so much room on the refrigerator.Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.