A new school in southwest Edmonton marked a very special day Friday: the first ever Joey Moss Day.
The celebration and day of learning is, appropriately, taking place at Joey Moss School. Edmonton Public Schools announced June 2021 it would pay tribute to the beloved sports and community icon by naming a new kindergarten to Grade 9 school after him.
The school — located at 1905 182 St. SW — opened earlier in September.
“Our goal of today is to ensure that all of our students know about Joey and his legacy and what they can learn from him,” principal Colleen Marshall said.
“He really taught people that with the support of your family, with hard work and a positive attitude, everybody can be successful and we want our students to take that with them.”
Moss passed away peacefully on Oct. 26, 2020 with loved ones by his side.
His family was in attendance at Friday’s events at Joey Moss School.
They also collaborated on a book with author Lorna Nicholson. As part of the day’s events, Nicholson read Good Morning, Sunshine! The Joey Moss Story to students.
“We’ve watched videos, we’ve had conversations — really making that connection to community, and how Joey brought joy and love and passion to the community and how well loved he was,” Marshall said.
Athletes and alumni from the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Elks were also part of the inaugural Joey Moss Day on Sept. 23.
Aaron Grymes, defensive back with the Edmonton Elks, said it was more than special to be part of the day.
“‘Special’ probably doesn’t even do it justice. Just to be part of Joey Moss Day at Joey Moss School? An absolute honour, very happy to be here.
“We’re talking about a guy who overcame so much and didn’t let it bother him. Battling adversity and making the best of it, that’s what I think of when I think of Joey Moss. A guy who always had a smile on his face,” Grymes said.
He said he hopes young Edmontonians take away the lesson that anything is possible.
“Don’t let things bog you down. Always keep that smile on your face, always be willing to put the work in and enjoy life, I think that’s what Joey did. He didn’t let things hold him back, he didn’t let what other people may think bother him.”
Moss worked for both professional sports teams and became a huge presence in both locker rooms. He was a member of the Oilers for decades, after Wayne Gretzky recommended him as a locker room attendant in 1984.
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.
After the assembly, Joey Moss School students had the chance to play street hockey with some Oilers and throw the ball with some Elks.
“We joke nobody was sick on Joey Moss Day,” Marshall said with a smile.
Grade 5 student Sawyer plays hockey himself and was pretty excited to get outside with some Oilers alumni. But besides that, he’s learned a lot about the man after whom his school is named.
“I learned that he had Down Syndrome and he worked with the Elks and the Oilers and Wayne Gretzky.
“What stood out to me was that he was always in a positive mood and even after the hard losses, he would always cheer people up,” Sawyer said.
“It is an honour to name one of our schools after such an excellent role model for our students,” EPSB chair Trisha Estabrooks said on June 22, 2021. “We asked Edmontonians to share their submissions for our new school name and we received a number of submissions with Joey’s name.
“Joey has left a profound legacy in the hearts and minds of many Edmontonians.”
“Our students can learn a great deal from Joey and his spirit of acceptance, inclusion and most importantly his unwavering dedication to his community,” Estabrooks said at the time.
On Joey Moss Day, students learn about him, his contributions to the community and how he continues to inspire others.
Moss helped start the Winnifred Stewart Association’s Empties to Winn fundraiser, which supports programs and initiatives for people with disabilities in the Edmonton region.
Funds from Joey’s Home Trust, which started in 1988 with support from Edmontonians and local organizations, were used to help open Joey’s Home in 2007, an assisted living residence for people with developmental disabilities.
In 2018, with support from the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society opened the Joey Moss Literary Centre for Excellence, which offers workshops, literacy resources, reading coaches and a speech literacy consultant.
Moss received many honours, including the NHL Seventh Man All-Star Award in 2003, Services for Persons with Disabilities Award in 2007, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012 and the Marlin Styner Award in 2015. He was also inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
His family was overjoyed that a school was being named after him.
“For those who knew Joey, they would say he opened their eyes to acceptance, diversity and inclusiveness,” the family said in a statement.
“Joey never judged or bullied, and only wanted to love, learn and smile… The Joey Moss School will be an excellent opportunity to instill these qualities in our youth at a young age.”
An official grand opening ceremony for the new school is set to be held in November.