For Joey

Sam Gagner
·6 min read

Joey Moss was the greatest person I have ever met.

And while I’m not sure if what I’m about to write will do his legacy justice, I feel as though I have to try.

After all, trying was exactly what Joey was about. Ask anyone who has been around that dressing room in Edmonton, or heard him sing the Canadian or U.S. national anthems, or seen him dance to “La Bamba.” He was as passionate as they come. I have countless stories and so many fond memories of our time together and honestly, I could go on forever. But I will do my best to paint a picture of the man Joey was, and also of the impact he had on those around him.

When I first got to Edmonton, you could see it right away — the special bond that Joey had with the players and the other trainers, and how much they enjoyed his company. We had a young group and decided early on that we were going to include Joey in just about everything we did away from the rink. Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert and myself were roommates and had an extra bedroom, so whenever we could we would invite Joey over for dinner, and then he would sleep over at our place. We would go bowling, watch wrestling (more on that later), listen to his James Bond Soundtrack CD driving around Edmonton, and have so much fun.

Spending time with Joey away from the rink turned out to be better for us than we could have ever imagined. The lessons he taught us about loyalty, about humility, and about having the proper perspective on the world, are things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I developed such a special relationship with Joey — he even came along on one of the first dates I had with my wife! (She liked him as much as I did.)

Derek Leung/Getty Images
Derek Leung/Getty Images

Joey was a huge fan of wrestling. He had every WWE DVD you could think of and was constantly making us watch them. Whenever the WWE came to town we were the first to get tickets, and we would just sit there as Joey would name off every wrestler and show us each of their signature moves. His favourite was John Cena’s “You Can’t See Me.” He would even get in on the action himself, and stage wrestling matches in the dressing room against anyone who would challenge him.

I remember one time Joey told us the WWE was coming to town so we said we had to get our tickets ASAP. It turned out that it was a live pay-per-view event at a local Cineplex theatre. We told Joey that we couldn’t go to that, that it would not be well attended and that the theatre would be empty. But true to form, Joey insisted, and when we showed up, there wasn’t a seat left in the place. I believe there were six of us, plus Joey, and the only place left for us to sit was on the stairs leading to the front row of the theatre. We thought Joey was going to be upset by that, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. Being that close to the screen meant he didn’t miss any of the action — and the area in front of the screen gave him all the room he needed to run around and perform all of the wrestlers’ signature moves. It didn’t matter that there was a theatre full of people watching him. This was his passion and he was going to enjoy it.

We had a blast that day. We also learned so much from Joey.

When I was drafted by Edmonton, I thought of the Oilers’ dynasty years, the Stanley Cups they had won and the Hall of Fame players who had worn the jersey. Now, as I look back on my time there and think about what it means to be an Edmonton Oiler, I think about Joey Moss. He gave everything he had to the city of Edmonton and took so much pride in calling himself an Oiler. If my stall was unkempt, or my laundry bag was left out, I heard about it from Joey. If I came to the rink with my hair disheveled, I’d hear from Joey about how I must have brushed my hair with a pork chop.

The banter between Joey and the guys in that dressing room was what made playing in Edmonton so special. He really was the heart and soul of all of those teams. I had the best game of my career in February of 2012, and I received calls afterwards from Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey — which was incredibly special and something I’ll never forget. But the number one memory I have from that night, was being the last player at the rink with Joey and the other trainers. Joey went to the back fridge and grabbed a couple beers because he said he was proud of me and wanted to celebrate with me. That’s just the kind of person Joey was.

Courtesy of Sam Gagner
Courtesy of Sam Gagner

It brings me to tears now thinking about it.

I will always cherish everything about our relationship. The sleepover nights, the bowling alley, the wrestling matches, the banter back and forth, the way Joey would light up a room with his smile. Most of all, I’ll remember the way Joey made me feel. The way he made everyone feel.

When I remember Joey, I’ll think about how we believed all along that we were doing all these things to enrich his life….. but the truth is that he was enriching ours. Joey made everyone who spent time with him a better person. The fact that he had Down syndrome didn’t matter to him — and it didn’t matter to us, either. He was just one of the guys and that is what made him so special.

Every time I went back to Edmonton after I got traded to Arizona in 2014, Joey would be waiting for me in the visiting dressing room to say, “Miss me?” One of the reasons I was so happy last year when I got traded back to the Oilers was that I would get to spend more time around Joey and have him meet my kids. As they grow older, I plan on telling them all of the stories I have about Joey, and on using the lessons I learned from him to teach them what it means to live a full life.

So even though I am writing this with a heavy heart, the truth is that this should really be a celebration of everything Joey stood for: strength, passion, humour, loyalty and friendship.

Rest In Peace, Joey. Your legacy will live on forever.