Wayne Gretzky is certain the legacy of his friend Joey Moss will never fade in Edmonton.
Moss, a longtime locker room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Football Club of the Canadian Football League, died Monday at 57.
“They traded me before Joey,” said Gretzky, who was traded by the Oilers to the Kings on Aug. 9, 1988. “Joey was a lifer.
“There was never a concern from anybody’s point of view that Joey wasn’t going to be a lifetime member of the Oiler hockey club and of the Edmonton football team. Paul Coffey and Kevin [Lowe] and Mark [Messier] and I used to sit around and we would laugh about it all the time, ‘We’re going to be gone, moved on and we’re going to be retired and Joey’s still going to be working in the Oiler locker room.’ It always brought a smile to my face that he was always accepted as part of the Edmonton Oilers locker room and the city of Edmonton community.”
Moss, who was born with Down syndrome, started working for Oilers part time during the 1982-83 season, according to Gretzky, who recommended him for the position. Moss began working full time during the 1984-85 season, according to the Oilers.
“I think what he did best was he gave parents hope,” Gretzky said Wednesday. “Parents who had kids who were mentally challenged saw Joey Moss living a relatively normal life, fitting into society and being accepted as a regular person. And I think that gave parents of kids with handicaps a great deal of hope. I think that was the biggest thing that Joey Moss brought to his life as far as helping other people. So it was an honor for me to know him. He was a great friend. He lived with me off and on for a lot of years and we spent a lot of time together. He was a wonderful young man and I’ll truly miss him.”
Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists) in 1,487 games during 20 seasons with the Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, said Moss’s upbeat personality was integral to the Oilers’ championship culture. Edmonton won the Stanley Cup five times in seven seasons (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990) after Moss joined.
“He brought a ray of sunshine and a lot of fond memories to all of us,” Gretzky said. “He made our lives better. It wasn’t just us making his life better. Without question he made our lives better. I said it before, there was nothing better than having a cup of coffee before practice with him, him talking about life and his aunts and his family and his mom, to playing the games and losing tough games and him tapping you on the shoulder telling you not to worry about it, we’ll win tomorrow.”
The Oilers are planning a tribute to Moss. Gretzky, an alternate governor with the Oilers, said the community may help decide the form the tribute takes.
“I think this is one time where maybe you reach out to people of Edmonton, the fans of Alberta and the Oilers, and sort of get a sense and a feel if people maybe want a statue, do people want a banner?” he said. “Whatever the people and the fans and the Oilers decide to do, it’ll be first class, it’ll be something we’ll remember for a long time.
“We made people happy by winning. We made people excited by winning championships. He made people happy who might not have been hockey fans but he gave them hope for their kids. I can’t say enough about what he did to raise awareness to show people that somebody with a handicap can still be part of society. So we’ve got to figure out the right way to honor him to last a lifetime. He deserves that.”