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PRINCIPE: 50 and Counting

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

When I think of the Edmonton Oilers and the number 50 I automatically think of Wayne Gretzky and when he recorded 50 goals in 39 games. It's a record that hasn't been broken and one that most likely won't be broken. However, today the number 50 means something else. It's Joey Moss' 50th birthday. Little Joey isn't so little anymore. He is a half a century old. Hard to believe. Time flies when you're having fun and Joey has had some great times.

Joseph 'Neil' Moss was born on September 25, 1963. He was born with Down Syndrome but I'm not sure he's ever had a down day in his life. Upbeat, energetic and someone who always has a smile on his face. We may have never known of Joey if wasn't for his older sister Vicki. She happened to catch the fancy of a young budding hockey player named Wayne Gretzky. The two became an item. Not long after that, Wayne met Joey. Joey should have been the one impressed by Wayne but it was the other way around. Gretzky saw how hard Moss worked at an Edmonton bottle depot. He suggested to then-GM Glen Sather that Moss be hired on with the Oilers...and so began the public life of one Joey Moss.

He started working with the Oilers in 1985 and a year later with the Edmonton Eskimos. His title is locker room attendant but he's so much more than that. Getting towels and vacuuming the room are a couple of his duties but his real job is to spread good will. Most mornings at the rink Joey is one of the first people you see. He's quick to say good morning and he often follows that up with a "you look good today." I know he means it but even if he didn't it sure is a nice thing to say to help brighten up someone's day. We don't see what goes on behind the scenes but we've been ushered out of the room on many occasions as Joey was preparing to wrestle one of the players for the dressing room belt. He may not be that tall but he's not short on toughness. Yet it's his softer side that warms the hearts of people and players.

It's become quite a common occurrence for Oilers when they are traded to acknowledge Joey. Sometimes it's Moss first and then teammates and organization next. From the old days when the Boys on the Bus departed to more modern-day departures like Dustin Penner or Andrew Cogliano. They all mention Joey. I remember when Doug Weight came back to Edmonton it was Joey he wanted to see. For years, Moss was Lyle 'Sparky' Kulchisky's right-hand man. While Sparky might have come across with a rough and tough exterior on the inside he was a big, old softie and Kulchisky had the biggest soft spot for Joey. He was like his work guardian making sure Joey made it to and from the rink. That he knew what his duties were and that he did them. Moss treats his job with great importance. That's why he's so good at it. More of us should show the same work ethic that Moss does. Doesn't matter what we do, it's just that we should do to the best of our abilities just like Joey does.

Maybe that's why he has a Cup -- Joey Moss Cup named after him -- or why he received the NHL alumni association's 'Seventh Man Award' in recognition for his outstanding behind the scenes service to the league. A mural of him has been painted on 99th street in Edmonton. He was also recognized with a Diamond Jubilee Medal. A lot of great things have happened to Joey. I'm sure his parents Lloyd and Sophie wondered what would happen when they first found out that Joey had Down Syndrome. For any parent that would have been shocking news to deal with but any hint of a 'disability' was washed away by Joey and with some help from Wayne.

I understand we might not even know Joey if Wayne hadn't met his older sister Vicki. For all the great things Gretzky accomplished this is one of his greatest accomplishments. Making a difference is something we should all strive to do and Wayne did it with Joey and Joey has done it with us. Whether it's when he's belting out the national anthem before games or filling up water bottles before practice. Joey has outlasted all the great Oilers. Some have come back but Joey never left. As much as things have changed Moss has stayed the same. Happy 50th Birthday Joey. Have a great day. You deserve it.

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