In which we ask Mark Messier about the Gary Coleman photo

This photograph of Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier posing with diminutive "Diff'rent Strokes" star Gary Coleman is the stuff of Internet legend, from message board avatars to being a reliable punchline for bloggers.

It's an iconic image whose impact has lasted long beyond the Edmonton Oilers' last Stanley Cup and Arnold Jackson's final "Whatchu talkin' about?"

It wasn't just the seeming randomness of the pairing. It's the autograph book and the writing implement that's at least half the size of Mr. Coleman. It's the hair on Messier's head, the pint in his hand and the lingering question of "where's that other hand, exactly?"

It's the random assortment of equipment, hangers and straps behind them that looks like something the detectives discover in a suspect's basement on "C.S.I." And yes, it's the fact that Messier apparently receives VIPs while wearing a washcloth.

There was a conference call today about Messier's new anti-concussion initiative (and equipment line) called The Messier Project. On Wednesday, we'll have a write-up about the Project, Messier's thoughts on player safety and his new gig with the New York Rangers; but you knew we couldn't get Mark Messier on the phone without bugging him about the Gary Coleman photo, right?

Q. There's been a picture of you floating around the Internet for the last 15 years posing with Gary Coleman of "Diff'rent Strokes" and I was wondering if you can elaborate on it?

MESSIER: Yeah, I've seen it many times, as you can imagine.

He was ... ah, "Diff'rent Strokes" was in the peak of their years. He was in Edmonton doing some kind of promotional event. We had just won a playoff round against somebody, and he came down to the dressing room to say hello to the team. And that's when that picture was taken.

With that, Messier had to run. Promise we'll ask about the washcloth next time. Check out more about The Messier Project on the ‘morrow.

What to Read Next