TORONTO -- There's an old saying, what goes around comes around.
When Dominic Moore signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers, that is exactly what was running through his mind. The 32-year-old Harvard University graduate began his NHL career with a three-assist performance for the Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 1, 2003, and it looked like the start of something wonderful.
Little did the Toronto native know then his NHL journey would be a bumpy ride with plenty of highs and lows, with stops in Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose. He's been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs four times, including runs to the Eastern Conference Final in back-to-back years with the Canadiens in 2010 and Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011.
Dominic Moore is glad to be making a comeback where his career started -- as a member of the Rangers. (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI)
After sitting out last season to spend time with his wife Katie, who passed away in January from liver cancer, Moore is making a comeback.
"It's hard to describe what I've been through," Moore said. "When you go through something like that, all you can do is try to make the best of it. It's the same thing as people dealing with illness; you just take it day by day and manage things the best you can. The good news is I had unbelievable support from friends and family and people from all walks of life. That goes a long way and counts for a lot."
Spending time with his wife in her time of need was Moore's priority. He said he knew there was no way he'd be able to commit himself to playing hockey and said he has no regrets about his decision.
"Deciding not to play was the right and only thing to do," he said. "I knew if I wasn't going to be able to give it 100 percent of my focus, I didn't want to do something halfway and not be all-in. Taking time off was the right thing to do when you don't believe you'll be able to perform up to the standard you expect from yourself. It was the right call to make, although it was extremely difficult."
Picking up the pieces of his life following Katie's death has not been easy, so refocusing his attention on his hockey career has been a welcome diversion. When we last saw Moore in an NHL uniform, it was with the San Jose Sharks during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The scrappy 6-foot, 192-pound center failed to score a goal in 26 combined regular-season and playoff games for the Sharks, but hopes his return to the Rangers will mean the return of an offensive touch that enabled him to be a scoring ace and first team college All-American. He led the ECAC in goals (24) and points (51) in 2002-03, his final season with the Crimson.
In the NHL he has been used mostly as a checking center, although he did manage a career-best 18 goals with the Lightning in 2010-11, and he had 13 goals in 2008-09, a season split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. That was the season he managed a personal-best 45 points.
Moore is hopeful his return to the Rangers will enable him to play a more prominent role on a team that is trying to rebound from a turbulent season. It was the Rangers, after all, that selected him with the No. 95 pick of the 2000 NHL Draft. Moore said he always has felt welcome by Rangers fans and hopes to repay them with solid performances at both ends of the ice.
"The way I broke into the League as a fourth-line, penalty-kill guy with the Rangers probably pigeonholed me a bit," Moore said. "I think over the years I have showed the ability to be a two-way player. I have always tried to be a well-rounded player and not just a checker. My mode of operation throughout my career is to get better every year, and that won't change."
Nor will his desire and commitment to helping raise awareness for lesser known types of cancer, such as the one that took his wife. Moore and some of his NHL pals, including Martin St. Louis of the Lightning, Phil Kessel and David Clarkson of the Maple Leafs, Logan Couture of the Sharks, George Parros of the Canadiens, Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes and Cody Hodgson of the Sabres, among others, gathered in Toronto on July 25 for the second annual Smashfest Charity Ping Pong Challenge. Moore said he believes nearly $100,000 was raised, with some of the proceeds from the event, which included a silent auction, going to the Katie Moore Foundation.
With the charity event done for the year, Moore is totally focused on preparing for the 2013-14 season. For now, it's about looking forward and not backward. Yet for someone who leads the league in team jackets, Moore has a positive perspective on his career that has involved a lot of locales.
"Nobody would wish that on themselves," Moore said. "But there was also a lot to be grateful for throughout the journey. I have met a lot of great people and certainly I would have preferred to stay in one place more often, but it is the nature of the game now; about 35 percent of the League changes teams every year. For me it was the case of being on one-year deals for most of those years, and I'm a player that teams want at the deadline and can fit me in under their cap. I have a spring run in Montreal to be thankful for and a great year-and-a-half in Toronto to be thankful for. You never have any regrets for things that are out of your control."