Steve Moses, proud son of Leominster, started this new hockey season on his club’s No. 1 power-play unit, setting up the likes of former NHL stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk.
For a kid yet to give up the dream of one day playing in the NHL, that’s pretty good company.
“We really have a pretty unbelievable roster,’’ Moses, 27, noted last week, reached by telephone at his apartment in St. Petersburg, Russia. “I mean, I watched those guys growing up and have a huge amount of respect for them. It’s a little different when you are out there with two legends. You sort of listen to them and go where they tell you to go.’’
It’s a fair bet, if your lens on the pro hockey world is strictly the NHL, that you haven’t heard much of Moses. He played four seasons with the Boston Jr. Bruins, then four more at the University of New Hampshire (class of 2012), and his two best shots at the NHL thus far have been short-lived stays with Connecticut and Milwaukee of the AHL.
But Moses has talent, particularly for putting the puck in the net, which he first displayed at UNH and later proved again while playing for Jokerit, the powerhouse Finnish squad in Helsinki (now part of the KHL, Russia’s top league). He led the KHL with 36 goals in only 60 games in 2014-15, which had a number of NHL clubs eager to sign him as a free agent last summer.
Now here’s the interesting case of Steve Moses. He signed with Nashville, and at a pretty good price for an unproven and undersized (5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound) winger who hadn’t skated a single NHL shift. The Predators inked him to a one-year, $1 million deal, and it was one-way, meaning he would make the $1 million even if he didn’t make the varsity.
The other hot forward out of the KHL last summer was Artemi Panarin, who also headed to North America to start his NHL career in 2015-16, with the Blackhawks.
“In sports, timing can kind of be everything,’’ said Moses. “Artemi and I were the two top scorers in the KHL that year. He ended up being Rookie of the Year [in the NHL]. I didn’t play a single game. So, like I say, timing can be everything — it didn’t work out.’’
Out of training camp last year, the Predators assigned Moses to Milwaukee, where he played only a few weeks before they let him out of his deal and he returned to the KHL to play for St. Petersburg. Very similar to what Harvard star Jimmy Vesey went through this summer, Moses chose the Predators, thinking they would be his best fit to start his NHL career. Vesey, albeit with a much higher profile, opted for the Rangers, stressing all summer that he would base his decision on finding the best fit.
It is all a calculated risk. It worked superbly for Panarin, who was also a free agent out of the KHL, in Chicago. But Moses never made the Nashville varsity. Now maybe it all fits perfectly Vesey in New York, but there are no sure things in a game designed around bounces of a puck.
“I’d like to give the NHL another shot,’’ said Moses, who is signed with St. Petersburg through the 2017-18 season, at a figure he says is better than $1 million a year. “But on the flip side of things, I am 27 now, and I want to be able to make as much money playing this game as I can. As you get older, that becomes more and more a driving force than the dream of playing in the NHL. So as long as they are going to pay me what they’re paying, I don’t think I’ll leave.
“But that being said, obviously I would still love to prove to myself and others that I can play in the NHL.’’
No surprise that Moses was a business major at UNH. Bright, articulate, and analytical, he views the NHL as much as a business model as a joy, a dream. Although he grew up in Leominster, watching the Bruins and infatuated with one day playing in the NHL, it’s the business of the game, and its implied risks, that guide his decisions.
“There are so many factors that you have to take into account,’’ said Moses. “You never know how things are going to play out after you sign. Are they going to make a trade for a guy who plays the same position? Are they going to re-sign a guy everyone thought would be a free agent?
“It’s really kind of an impossible decision. For [Vesey], he’s younger than me and he had even more interest. I am sure it is going be a great move and a long career for him. I know having to discuss with GMs, coaches, and then go back with your agent, to go back and make a decision on something you’ve wanted your whole life can be pretty difficult.
“When it doesn’t work out, you can be left banging your head against the wall, thinking, ‘What if I’d done something different?’ But I’ve come to the point where I realize in sports you never know what’s going to happen and you deal with it.’’
Rooney forced to the sideline
Veteran NHL referee Chris Rooney, born and raised in South Boston, won’t be back on the ice any time soon after undergoing surgery two weeks ago to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon. It’s very likely that Rooney, 41, will miss most if not all of the 2016-17 season.
“We’ll see how it goes,’’ said a disappointed Rooney, contacted by phone at his home in Milton, a little more than a week after surgery. “Right now, I’m looking at 4-6 months, I guess. I’ll check in every couple of weeks with the doctors, but for now I’m home on the couch . . . and that’s about it.’’
Ranked among the NHL’s top guys in stripes, Rooney tore his Achilles’ last month at the start of training camp for the upcoming World Cup, just as he was wrapping up his dryland workout.
“It was during a shuttle run and it just popped,’’ explained Rooney. “I was doing the test for, oh, maybe 10-12 minutes . . . and, pop, it tore right off. Until then, no pain or anything. Had I felt something, obviously I would have stopped. But all of a sudden, it just went.’’
“Let’s hope the healing has begun,’’ noted Stephen Walkom, Rooney’s boss as the NHL’s director of officiating, “and he is back on the ice soon.’’
A goalie in his youth hockey days in Southie, Rooney took up officiating as an 11-year-old and stuck with it when he went to Catholic Memorial.
“I wasn’t a very good goalie, so I didn’t play at CM,’’ he recalled. “And to be honest, what got me reffing initially was the money. I was 11, and I’d work a mite game for 50 minutes and get something like $20 or $25. In those days, bagging groceries at Stop & Shop paid $4 an hour. I’d pick up 3-4 games over a weekend and get $100. I thought that was pretty good.’’
Rooney kept officiating all the way through his days at Northeastern, working games during his months out of the classroom, standard breaks during the school’s co-op program. Soon after graduating, he worked for two years in the USHL, prior to entering a three-year NHL training program, assigned games throughout the minor pro leagues (AHL, ECHL, and the like) and the top Canadian junior leagues. In 1999, he was hired full time by the NHL and consistently has been rated among the best in the game.
An Achilles’ injury is particularly tough for obvious reasons. Refereeing requires a litany of skills, including a level head and even temperament. But just like playing, everything starts with skating. If you can’t be near the play to make the call, or if you’re constantly impeding the action, they’ll find someone with better legs to handle the whistle.
“It takes months for the Achilles’ to heal with or without surgery,’’ noted Dr. Ben Wedro, emergency physician at the Gundersen Clinic (LaCrosse, Wis.). “It has to do with allowing the tendon edges to scar together before subjecting them to the force of walking or running or skating. Post-surgery, the foot is usually in a cast for 4-6 weeks, followed by months of physical therapy — both to stretch the tendon as a way to regain range of motion and to strengthen the leg muscles. Rush the rehab and you run the risk of reinjury.’’
Rooney is eager to get back to work, especially at a time of year when his body’s work clock tells him it’s time to be back on the ice. He broke his left ankle working a playoff game five years ago at Madison Square Garden, so he knows the frustration that comes with the healing process. Unlike then, however, he doesn’t have a full summer to recover.
NHL referees, especially the good ones, typically work into their early or mid-50s, which means Rooney should have another decade or more to go.
“Sounds great,’’ said Rooney, “You know, as long as my wife lets me.’’
ONE MORE TIME
Bruins Moore’s 10th NHL team
No telling exactly how veteran forward Dominic Moore fits here, but the Harvard grad, signed Tuesday to a one-year, $900,000 deal by the Bruins, has fashioned a lengthy career out of his plucky play and overall adaptability.
Consider: Once playing his first game for the Bruins, likely to be the Oct. 13 season opener in Columbus, Moore will have played for 10 NHL teams, including other Original Six stops with the Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Canadiens.
According to Elias, the NHL’s official record keeper, Mike Sillinger still holds the record, having played for 12 NHL teams. He wrapped up his 1,049-game career with the Islanders in 2008-09, prior to turning 38.
Moore, 36, and ex-Bruin short-timer Lee Stempniak, 33, (now under contract with the Hurricanes), this season will hit the 10-club mark, also previously attained by J.J. Daigneault, Jim Dowd, Olli Jokinen, Michel Petit, and former Mount St. Charles star Mathieu Schneider.
Moore, whose brothers Mark and Steve also played at Harvard, lost his first wife (Katie Urbanic) to liver cancer in January 2014 and he soon founded the Katie Moore Foundation, aiding others who battle rare forms of cancer. A little more than a year ago, Moore married another Harvard grad, Mary Hirst.
Steve Moore’s brief NHL career came to an end March 8, 2004, with the Colorado Avalanche, when he was jumped from behind by then-Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi. The assault left Moore with a concussion, facial fractures, and three broken neck vertebrae.
Steve Moore’s civil suit against Bertuzzi finally came to an end in August 2014, prior to trial. Moore sought $68 million in damages, and terms of the settlement remain confidential.
Appropriate spots for Howe’s ashes
A Canadian Press story noted last week that some of Gordie Howe’s ashes, along with those of his wife, Colleen, will be interred alongside the statue of Mr. Hockey that stands not far from his childhood home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Other portions of the Howes’ ashes will be placed in Bear Lake, Mich., far to the northwest of Detroit, where No. 9 made his name as a legendary Red Wing.
“His favorites spots are going to have my mom and dad,’’ said son Marty Howe, who played briefly for the Bruins toward the end of his career.
Gordie Howe died June 10 at age 88.
The new NHL franchise in Las Vegas (Original No. 31), which will hit the ice in October 2017, has yet to choose a name, although some permutation of “Knights’’ looks to be a lock. The working list thus far, based on domain names registered by ownership, includes Desert Knights, Silver Knights, Golden Knights, and Sand Knights (the most recent contender). Headline writers await the chance to employ “Nighty Knights’’ when they secure their first victory . . . A bit gray at the edges but forever game, a bunch of players from the Bruins’ 1970 Cup-winning team, including Derek Sanderson, will be signing autographs Sept. 11 at Sportsworld, 87 Broadway (Route 1) in Saugus. Other oldie Black and Goldies in attendance will include Wayne “Swoop” Carleton, Gary Doak, Fred Stanfield, John McKenzie, Don Marcotte, Nick Beverley, and Dallas Smith . . . The Bruins’ captain’s practices, still closed to the public, will continue this week at their new Warrior practice facility in Brighton, adjacent to New Balance headquarters. The new one-sheet arena, which includes seating for some 500, will have its official unveiling to the media on Thursday . . . Boston University goalie Max Prawdzik, headed into his sophomore year with the Terriers, was on the Warrior ice last week, stopping pucks during the Bruins’ informal workouts . . . The Jets last week named ex-Bruin Blake Wheeler their new captain, replacing the departed Andrew Ladd. Among the game’s most affable sorts, Wheeler, even in his brief time here, was always approachable and well spoken, never one to spew clichés. On that very subject, Wheeler said last week, “I never want be that guy.’’ Bravo, Blake . . . The Bruins will bring their rookies together for one day this month (Sept. 15) before heading directly to Buffalo to a four-day round-robin tourney with the Sabres and Devils. They are back here on the 20th, prior to the varsity (sans the World Cup players) starting camp on Sept. 22.