Edmonton sports legend Joey Moss died Monday at the age of 57.
Moss has been a beloved member of the Edmonton Oilers for decades. He became the NHL team’s locker room attendant in 1984, after he was recommended by The Great One himself — Wayne Gretzky. The two met when Gretzky was just 20 years old. He was dating Moss’ sister at the time.
“We were all lucky enough to be part of his life for a lot of years,” Gretzky said in a statement on behalf of all the players who got to know Moss.
“His love for life always brought a smile to anyone who met him. Whether it was a coffee before practice or a big hug after a great win or a tough loss, he would put life in perspective.
“He will be missed but not forgotten, once an Oiler always an Oiler.”
In a statement, the Moss family said Joey passed away peacefully Monday with his family by his side.
The Oilers issued a statement saying the entire organization was mourning the loss of “dear friend and colleague, the legendary Joey Moss.”
Moss, who was born with Down syndrome, joined the Edmonton Football Team two years later after he joined the Oilers.
The Winnifred Stewart Association, which Moss and his family were involved with for many years, shared a statement from his family.
“It is with deep sadness that the family announces the passing of Joey Moss. Joey passed away peacefully on Oct. 26 at the age of 57 with his family by his side.
“Joey was a remarkable person who taught us to love, laugh and enjoy life always.
“While Joey is most recognized as the dressing room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Football Team, and singing the national anthem; Joey is also remembered for his incredible dance moves and putting a smile on your face when you are feeling down.
“Joey’s 35 years tenure with the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Football Team shows his dedication and loyalty to the jobs that he loved. His strong work ethic and contributions were rewarded, as he was presented with an NHL All-Star Award, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award, and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, just to name a few.
“We would like to thank the city of Edmonton and everyone who supported and embraced Joey.
“We hope that Joey’s legacy will continue on through the Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Football Team and all professional sports clubs and workplaces, as we continue to recognize the contributions that people with developmental disabilities make in our society, as integral members of the workforce.”
The Winnifred Stewart Association and Foundation said Moss touched the hearts of a lot of people.
“Joey was an inspiration to many and was an ambassador for people with developmental disabilities. This loss will be felt far and wide, and we are so grateful for the time we had with him.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to Joey’s family, his friends and all of Edmonton during this difficult time.”
In a post on its website, the Edmonton Football Team organization paid tribute to Moss and said it was deeply saddened to learn of his passing.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Moss family,” the football club said.
“Edmonton lost a hero today. Joey’s bravery, humor, strength, work ethic and perseverance in our dressing room and in our community left indelible impressions that will live with us all.
“More than that, Joey endeared himself to everyone in our province, our country and beyond, no matter who they were. He was a symbol of what true teamwork is comprised of and we are all better for having known him.
“He touched us all.”
Over the years, he captured the hearts of those in Edmonton and beyond, particularly for his enthusiastic participation in the national anthem before the start of every game.
The team said although he worked behind the scenes with the Edmonton Oilers training staff, Joey Moss was one of the organization’s most well-known and beloved members.
Moss racked up many accolades in Edmonton over the years.
In 2003, he was presented the NHL Alumni Association’s “Seventh Man Award,” which goes to NHL members “whose behind-the-scene efforts make a difference in the lives of others.”
In 2007, he accepted the Mayor’s Award from then-mayor Stephen Mandel in recognition of the Oilers commitment to persons with disabilities.
In, 2015, he was inducted to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame to honour his contributions and dedication made to both the Oilers and Edmonton’s CFL club. In 2012, he was recognized with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Moss is also the namesake behind “Joey’s Home”, an assisted-living home for people with developmental disabilities overseen by the Winnifred Stewart Association.
Every year, the Oilers noted, the team ends training camp with the presentation of the Joey Moss Cup to the winners of the annual intra-squad game.
“The tournament began over a decade ago as an evaluation tool for the coaching staff, and has evolved into a charitable fundraiser,” the organization said. “While this is just one of the fundraisers Joey is the face of, he has also played a large role in several other community events and fundraising initiatives, raising millions of dollars in his name for worthy causes.”
Monday’s night’s episode of the 630 CHED radio show Inside Sports with Reid Wilkins saw former Oilers and former members of the EE Football team pay tribute to Moss.
“He’s part of the fabric of Edmonton history. It was a joy to be around him,” said former Edmonton Football Team quarterback and head coach Jason Maas. “When I came to Edmonton, I didn’t know much about the city — didn’t know much about anything. Then you meet Joey and you realize what a big superstar he was.”
“He’s a special dude,” said former Oiler Mark Letestu. “It was the spirit he had, not only for sports but for the town, and the joy he brought to a lot of people.
“It didn’t matter who we were playing. Nobody wanted to win more and nobody took a loss harder. That was his passion for the Oilers and winning. He was perfect to have around the team.”
Former Oilers forward Georges Laraque said the “Oilers family lost a legend.”
“He was full of energy. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Whether we had a good day or bad day… it didn’t matter what happened. He was always there. He was always smiling.”
Former Edmonton Football Team lineman Blake Dermott said it was inspiring to see Moss’ work ethic.
“So often in a season, you’re physically tired, you’re emotionally tired, you’re just drained,” he said. “Sometimes you come into the locker-room and you don’t even feel like lifting your head if things weren’t going well… Then you’d see Joey working, and just working hard, like he did every day.
“He came in. He had jobs to do. He did his jobs. He never complained. When you saw that, it was really tough to feel sorry to yourself. It was difficult not to react positively to Joey. He truly was an inspiration.”
–With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich