The Edmonton sports community is mourning the loss of local legend Joey Moss, who died Monday at the age of 57.
Moss was an integral part of both the Edmonton Oilers and the EE Football Team, having worked as a locker-room attendant for both organizations since the mid-1980s.
“It’s a sad day for the city of Edmonton and the CFL and the NHL,” CFL quarterback Mike Reilly said Monday night.
Read more: Edmonton sports legend Joey Moss dies at 57
“That was a punch to the gut. Joey, I don’t even have the words to explain to people who he was or what he was like. If you’ve ever met Joey you know that you’ve met, as a lot of us call him, the most interesting man in the world.
“He was just kind of a pillar.”
While Moss meant a lot to the community, Reilly said he meant even more to the guys in the locker room.
“To the guys that came through that locker room and got to spend any amount of time with Joey, he was the highlight of the day. It didn’t matter if you had the worst practice or game in the history of football, if you came into that locker room and saw Joey and that didn’t put a smile on your face, then I can’t help you,” Reilly said via Skype from Seattle.
“He was one of a kind. Some of my fondest memories of being in Edmonton and being in that locker room involved Joey Moss.”
Reilly said Moss was dedicated to his job and was often still working hours after everyone else left.
“Any job that he had to do, he did it better than anybody else could and he took a ton of pride in it,” Reilly said. “I think both organizations allowed him to thrive by allowing him to be one of the guys and to have a lot of pride in the jobs that he was given.”
Moss was born in 1963 with Down syndrome. He was the 12th of 13 children, to Lloyd and Sophie Moss. He became the Oilers’ locker-room attendant in 1984 when The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, was dating Moss’ older sister. Moss joined the EE Football Team in 1986 and held roles with both organizations for over 30 years.
Moss helped the training staff with tasks like filling water bottles and equipment duties.
“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.”
“The people of Edmonton, the fans of Edmonton took Joey in as their guardian angel,” Gretzky said on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on 630 CHED on Tuesday.
“And whether people of Edmonton know this or not, it kind of spread through the country that, well, look at Edmontonians, how important this young man is, but not just because he was mentally challenged, but because there’s other kids battling the same scenario that we were able to open up so many opportunities for these kids.”
During the 80s, Gretzky said he, Paul Coffey and Kevin Lowe used to joke that Moss would still be around long after those players had moved on.
“And then a new group of kids came along,” Gretzky said.
“Those guys really took to Joey and Joey took to them. They carried on a legacy.”
Mayor Don Iveson said the loss is heartbreaking.
“As mayor, I got to meet him a number of times and he’s just a delightful human being and it’s sad,” he said. “He was a great guy so the loss is deeply felt in our city.”
Moss passed away peacefully Monday with his family by his side.
On Tuesday night, to honour Moss, the High Level Bridge will be lit up in blue and orange, and green and gold.
“Tonight, the High Level Bridge in Edmonton will shine in love and deep gratitude for the life of an Edmonton original, Joey Moss,” read a tweet from the City of Edmonton.”
He was a great one, too.”