Mary-Kay Esposito ’86 and her brother Mark Messier are raising awareness about the importance of head protection in ice hockey.
by Cecil Harris
Mary-Kay Esposito ’86, whose brother is a sports icon, could have found it difficult to emerge from his shadow. Yet after graduating from Adelphi University, Mrs. Esposito—the younger sister of hockey Hall of Famer and six-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier—has excelled in her business career and raised a family.
As vice president of brand initiatives for Bauer, the world’s largest supplier of hockey and lacrosse equipment, Mrs. Esposito is spearheading a “Grow the Game” project to bring one million new players to hockey in the next 10 years. Prior to this effort, she and her brother launched The Messier Project, which raises awareness about the importance of head protection. That project has produced a revolutionary hockey helmet, marketed by Bauer as the IMS 7.0, which provides more protection for the head because of liner cones inside that compress upon impact and allow better absorption, thus reducing the frequency of concussions.
“Making a helmet rounder and smoother is what makes it safer—providing head-to-toe protection for kids who play hockey is something Mark and I are very passionate about,” Mrs. Esposito says.
There is no sibling rivalry in what Mrs. Esposito affectionately calls “the Messier Clan.” Indeed, much of her professional success has been a family affair. From 1991—2009, she handled the business operations for Messier Management International. She built alliances with people, corporations and charitable organizations, and created the company’s promotional materials and videos, which freed Mr. Messier to concentrate on winning hockey games—none bigger than Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, when he captained the New York Rangers to their first championship in 54 years.
“Mark lived in a [Manhattan] brownstone at the time, and he and I just sat on the stoop one day with the Stanley Cup as people came by,” Mrs. Esposito says with a laugh. “I’ve had the privilege of working alongside my brother, who is a unique, powerful and compassionate person.”
Although she grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Mrs. Esposito attended college in the United States, as her father had. Edmonton is where she met her husband, Aldo. They have three sons, Luke, Mark and Matteo, and a daughter, Sophia, and live in Connecticut. Luke plays hockey at Harvard University and wears the IMS 7.0 helmet. Many National Hockey League players wear it as well.
While at Adelphi, Mrs. Esposito majored in communications and marketing and participated in tennis and dance. She produced sports features for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and then joined IBM to launch computer products before running her brother’s company.
“I didn’t spend my career in TV, but I use the communication skills I acquired at Adelphi all the time,” she says. “It’s important for students to be broad-minded about education and be willing to evolve.”
“Mary-Kay was a very smart, lovely and graceful student who seemed to always see beyond the usual,” Dr. Costello says. “There was a curiosity about her. She knew, more than most students, that there was a larger world. She was very interested in understanding that larger world and participating in it.”
Mrs. Esposito is fully engaged in the larger world and quite comfortable in a leadership role. “My parents instilled in me the desire to lead,” she says. “One way to lead is to give back first. If you give back, then so many rich and rewarding experiences will come back to you.”
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