"Kenny! Kenny! Joey's hurt!"
A panicked shout could be heard coming from the Oilers dressing room in 2008.
Ken Lowe, Head Medical Trainer at the time for the Edmonton Oilers, rushed out of his office where he had been quietly working on his post-practice training notes, to find Joey Moss hunched over, grimacing in pain on the dressing room floor while holding his shoulder.
Looking over at Equipment Manager Lyle Kulchisky, better known as "Sparky", Lowe could see a smirk climb across his face, as he realized they were mock wrestling yet again.
"I don't have time for this," Lowe said, slightly irritated but relieved to find out Joey was only acting.
Sparky, the self-appointed referee - and pre-determiner of who would win and lose every match - turned to Lowe, "But Kenny, don't you know? When you lose, you're hurt."
Dustin Penner, among other players at the time, helped carry Joey across the dressing room and up onto the training room table in Lowe's office - where Joey laid down, committing to his enactment.
The mock wrestling matches in the Oilers dressing room had become something of a tradition, started originally by Sparky. Joey would pretend to fight different players for a replica wrestling belt that had been gifted to him by a friend of Barrie Stafford - Head Equipment Manager for the Oilers at that time. Knowing Joey's love for wrestling, young players on the team took these matches as a chance to pause from any stresses that currently faced them on the ice, finding comedic relief in Joey's fun-loving nature.
"Okay," Sparky clapped his hands towards Joey, who still sat defeated, holding his shoulder.
"Back to work!"
Joey sprung off the treatment table, as if nothing had happened, returning with a smile to his duties as the Dressing Room Attendant - a position he has filled since the 1984-85 season and still holds fondly to this day.
Born in 1963 with a humble upbringing in Edmonton, Joseph Moss was the 12th of 13 children born to Lloyd and Sophie Moss. Joey was born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder resulting in developmental delays and varying intellectual disabilities. At the time of his birth, it was not unlikely for children born with Down Syndrome to be institutionalized. However, Sophie did not recognize Joey's extra chromosome as reason to regard him any differently than her other 12 children. Instead, Joey was treated the same as all of his siblings, and even took part in the family band - The Alaska Highway Birth-Quakes - playing along with a small guitar.
But despite the family's positive attitude and musically-induced optimism, hardships were not absent. In 1977, Lloyd Moss passed away, and Sophie suddenly found herself as a single parent.
"I was nine, Joey was 14 and my mom had six kids in the house still," recalled Stephen Moss, the youngest off the Moss children.
"We didn't have much money. A lot of the kids moved out and Vikki, Joey and I stayed home."
The Moss family soon experienced a change of fate, when a young hockey player became taken with Joey's older sister, Vikki Moss.
"Wayne coming into our lives was a game-changer," said Stephen.
Dating Vikki while with the Oilers, Wayne Gretzky got to know the Moss family, becoming close to Vikki's youngest siblings - Joey and Stephen.
"Wayne came into my life when I think I was 11 or 12," said Stephen. "Wayne just gravitated towards our family and took a liking to Joey."
Recognizing the family's hardships, Gretzky offered Sophie a job to help manage his fan mail.
"It just kind of stabilized things," Stephen recalled.
"One time, when Wayne scored five goals in one game, he was given a car from Peter Pocklington. And that
car he gave to my mom. That was huge."
Stephen's eyes flooded with gratitude, as he reminisced on the impact Gretzky has had on his family, especially Joey, since The Great One first entered his life so many years ago.
After seeing Joey's dedicated work ethic at a job he held at a local bottle depot, Gretzky put the request in to Glen Sather to find Joey an opportunity to work in the dressing room.
"Wayne brought Joey over and he started helping Sparky. We put Joey to work, and he was really helpful and started to really love the job," said Stafford, now OEG's Manager of Alumni Relations.
"And the rest is history."
Filling up players' water bottles, folding towels and vacuuming the dressing room, no one at the time could have anticipated the profound effect Joey would have on the Oilers organization.
"He's got a special place in every player's heart that's come through the dressing room," said Stafford.
With more than 30 years of working with the Oilers, Joey has outlasted every player that has ever been on the team - making him a familiar presence for those who return.
"Every player that comes through here knows Joey," Stafford explained. "A lot of times when a former player comes through here, they would come in and make a special trip just to see Joe. A lot of times we'd send Joey down to the visiting team's dressing room so he could go say hi to the coaches and players."
Joey has always gone far beyond his job description as a Dressing Room Attendant. Always sticking to a stringent routine, duties that involved repetition - such as folding towels - were tasks that Joey could perform well. However, it wasn't his consistency in the execution of his work that has made Joey a vital part of the team. Rather, it was his witty personality and exuberant nature that has made him a pillar of the Oilers organization.
"I used to sit with Joey all the time because my brother's tickets were with Gretzky's tickets," said Ken Lowe - brother of former teammate to Gretzky, Kevin Lowe. "I got to know Joey before he even started working with the team."
Prior to working with Joey at the Oilers in 1989, Ken Lowe also worked with Joey when he started with the Edmonton Eskimos CFL organization in 1986.
"I was with the Eskimos at the time and Gretz phoned me," he said.
Trying to find work for Joey during the Oilers off-season, Lowe and Eskimos Equipment Manager Dwayne Mandrusiak were thrilled to bring Joey aboard, especially given his reference from The Great One himself.
"Wayne was very instrumental in all of this," added Lowe.
Joey has brought both the Oilers and Eskimos something they never knew they were missing, and now can never imagine their teams without.
"He has a tendency to keep everybody smiling," said Stafford.
"His famous line in the morning is 'good morning sunshine'. When he comes in in the morning, the first thing he'll say with a big smile on his face is, 'good morning sunshine!'"
From his impressive dance moves to Michael Jackson songs, the enthusiasm he spreads when he talks fervently about wrestling for hours on end, or his jokes that are sure to catch you off-guard, Joey - both knowingly and unknowingly - brings a joy to the team when they are in need of it most.
"We might have gone on a road trip, come back and maybe we hadn't done that well, but we had Joey," smiled Lowe.
"His personality is refreshing for all the players," said Joey's younger brother Stephen. "They can see how life is simplified through his eyes. He just made it fun. Because Joe was in there, they were able to have that sense of humour."
"He's the most famous person in Edmonton and doesn't even know it."
These were the first words Barrie Stafford spoke while reflecting on his colleague and personal friend of more than three decades.
"He's world-renowned because of his singing. He loves to sing the anthem."
Seated directly behind the players' bench at every home game - a spot that Gretzky always ensured was reserved for his friend - Joey proudly (and loudly) sings along to both the American and Canadian national anthems before puck drop.
"You can almost hear him [on the broadcast], he's so loud," smiled Stafford.
Becoming a bit of a pre-game ritual, the players often seek out Joey in the crowd to watch him as he passionately sings along to O Canada.
Ken Lowe explains how one of his favourite photos from the dynasty years was of a picture taken in 1996 during an exhibition game for the World Cup. Pictured, you see Gretzky, Coffey and Messier standing at the blue line during the national anthem, looking up towards the bench.
"You just know they were looking for Joey," grinned Lowe.
Both Stafford and Lowe note the 2006 Oilers playoff run took Joey's fame to a whole new level.
"Once you hit the playoffs there's a lot more coverage," said Lowe. "I think CBC and NBC even did a feature on him."
With extra eyes on the team during the run, Joey became a League-wide sensation as millions of viewers watched from home as he sang along to the national anthem.
"People right across Canada know who Joey is," Stafford added.
Even in the non-traditional hockey market of North Carolina, Joey was recognized while walking down the street on his way back from the pre-game meals during the Stanley Cup Final.
"We couldn't get within a two-block radius of the arena and the restaurant without people pulling over and honking their horns, and waving at Joey Moss!" laughed Stafford.
"People would come up to the restaurant and ask him for his autograph. He loved it! He loves to please, he's such a friendly guy."
Although he may not realize the extent of his celebrity, Joey appreciates the various recognitions he's received, said his brother. From the NHL Alumni Association's Seventh Man Award given to him in 2003, to the Mayor's Award from the City of Edmonton in 2007, and his induction into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame just last year, Joey's list of accolades is impressive.
"You name it," Stafford beams while talking about Joey's achievements. "He's on the side of vehicles driving around Edmonton, large murals on the walls of the city… you can't go very far without seeing Joey Moss."
The vehicles Stafford speaks of are from Empties to Winn - a campaign where empty bottles can be scheduled for pickup, with profits benefitting the Winnifred Stewart Association (WSA). WSA provides assistance for those living with developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome. Acting as the face of the campaign, Joey continues to grow his independence and develop fundamental life skills through the resources offered by WSA.
Acting as his legal guardian since 2007, Stephen added, "He's trying to pay it forward. He's trying to just be an inspiration and support others. Not only for Down Syndrome, but for other disabilities and other illnesses."
Besides lifting spirits inside and outside of the dressing room, Joey has provided a genuine friendship to many players and staff members throughout the years. Most notably, his friendship with Gretzky.
"Even to this day Wayne stops to see him and spends time with him," said Stafford.
Growing up with Gretzky as somewhat of an older brother figure, Joey continued to idolize The Great One following his trade in 1988.
"Any time Gretzky came back to play against Edmonton after being traded, Joey would go in the visitor dressing room to see him," said Lowe.
"One time (when Gretzky was the Head Coach of the Phoenix Coyotes), he gave him a Phoenix hat to wear back to the Oilers dressing room," he laughed. "Gretz would put a Phoenix hat on him and he'd come back to our dressing room and Sparky would pretend to fire him."
Epitomizing the profundity of their friendship, Joey was included in the ceremonial raising of Gretzky's banner at Rexall Place in 1999.
"When Wayne's banner was raised, he was right there beside Wayne," Stafford said.
"Centre ice with Wayne," Stephen thought back to the unforgettable day. "That was huge."
Joey re-joined his friend at centre ice on April 6, 2016, for the Farewell Rexall Place ceremony and the lowering of the Farewell Season banner, again demonstrating his prominence as a member of the organization.
"He's always included," said Stephen. "He's treated like a celebrity and a legend."
Although Joey's friendship with Gretzky is arguably the most talked-about, his companionship with other players and staff is far-reaching.
When asked who Joey is closest to today, Stephen answered, "Right now, it's Barrie Stafford. He's been wonderful. Joey goes over there for a few days, a weekend, or at Christmas time."
"He's a personal friend of our family," Stafford said. "When the team goes on the road, he'll often stay with us."
Stafford says some of Joey's favourite things to do when he visits are watching DVDs of wrestling that he brings with him, and dancing with Stafford's family.
"He is a dancing machine - he loves to dance!" said Stafford.
So much so, that Stephen started a website for Joey (josephmoss.ca) that not only lists his many accolades, but includes videos of Joey dancing
"He's slowing down a bit now," said Stephen. "But if you happen to see him on the dance floor - and he's 53 now - he dances like he's 17!"
Despite his age, Joey's youthful attitude allows him to keep up with the young players on the team.
"There always seems to be a group of guys every two to three years that put Joey under their wing," said current Head Equipment Manager Jeff Lang.
"They want to take him for dinner, to a movie or even just sit down and have breakfast with Joey in the new locker room. It's like having a brother around - somebody they can just kind of hang out with who doesn't care who they are or what they're doing."
Lang says the person Joey is probably closest with on the current roster would be Patrick Maroon.
"I don't know what it is, but Joey always seems to take to the biggest guys in the room," he laughed.
Lang and his own family also consider Joey to be a close personal friend.
"We do Halloween at my house usually," he said. "Once the kids started going trick-or-treating Joey would come with us."
Not having a costume prepared, Lang said he remembers him and his wife quickly making up a clown costume for Joey to wear the first year he joined his sons to trick-or-treat around their cul-de-sac.
"So we go around to the neighbours and when we get there they're saying hi to the boys, and they go, 'hi Joey!'"
Naïve to his own fame, Joey turned in confusion to Lang to ask how these apparent strangers could possibly know his name.
"Well Joey, they know you work for the Oilers," Lang recalls explaining to Joey.
It was moments like these that continue to humble those in Joey's presence.
"He's probably the biggest celebrity in Edmonton that doesn't know it," Lang echoed Stafford's words.
As the years pass by, as new players come and go, and as the team finds itself in a new home, Joey remains a constant. Offering companionship to those in the dressing room - and years beyond their departure - a youthful outlook and grounding presence, Joey continues to rise above the challenges he has faced by his disability.
"He's not a handicapped person," Lang said. "Just because he has Down Syndrome doesn't mean he can't be involved. A lot of people don't want to give those with Down Syndrome a chance because they think they can't do the job."
"But giving Joey a chance - however many years ago that was - it was something that Joey could do. It was folding towels, filling water bottles, and it just kind of evolved to where we are now."
Joey has not only created awareness for the Down Syndrome community, he continues to inspire others and bring a renewed hope to those who are currently facing adversity.
"He's more than just a locker room attendant. He's a figure of this organization," Lang said.
"He'll always be an Oiler."
By Kelli Gustafson • View More In Depths