| The Detroit News
When Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner had eight points in one game in 2012 to tie an Edmonton Oilers club record set by Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, Gagner received congratulations that night from Hall of Famers Gretzky and Coffey.
Gagner says nothing compared, though, to the time spent after the record-tying game with Joey Moss, the team’s longtime dressing room attendant who died on Monday in Edmonton of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at age 57.
Moss had Down syndrome and was a “ray of sunshine” and a fixture with the four-time Stanley Cup champions for nearly 40 years. He was also a regular guest at Gagner’s home during his two stints in Edmonton from 2007-2014 and 2019-2020.
“My biggest memory after my eight points in a game was just sitting down with Joey, having a beer and chatting,” Gagner said. “There was a lot going on that night. I talked to Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, my parents and my soon-to-be wife.
“I didn’t get out of the rink until a couple of hours later and the only guy left in the rink was Joey and a couple of the trainers. He said he was proud of me and that was such a special, special moment, something I’ll never forget.”
Gagner, who had four goals and four assists in the 8-4 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 2, 2012, and two more goals against the Red Wings six days later in a 4-2 loss at Joe Louis Arena, said Moss’ hard work, positive attitude and sense of humor was an inspiration to him, his teammates and his family.
“Right from when I first met him, we became instant friends,” Gagner said. “There was a group of us, a bunch of young guys coming in who lived together. We would always take Joey out for dinner, have him sleep over. We just had a blast getting to know him. There was never a bad day. He always had a smile on his face.
“When he slept over and we had to be at practice the next morning for 8:45-9 o’clock, he would be waiting by the door at 7 a.m. We would be kind of lingering and he would get antsy. He would say, ‘I got work. I got stuff to do.’ He took his job very seriously and at the end of the day, he was just one of the guys.”
Gagner said it’s a “testament to what kind of person Joey Moss was” that National Hockey League teams and players as well as the league’s players and alumni associations are posting condolence messages on social media.
The Oilers are preparing to pay tribute to their beloved team member, who joined the team on a recommendation from Gretzky. Gretzky was dating his sister Vikki Moss, and helped him land the clubhouse duties in the 1984-85 season.
“When the news broke, I got texts from everybody, former teammates, buddies that used to come down to Edmonton,” Gagner said. “My wife and I were just talking about him last night, telling stories. We’re so grateful my kids got a chance to meet him the last few years. As much as it’s a sad day, it’s a celebration of everything he was able to accomplish in his lifetime, his lasting legacy.”
Hall of Fame retired broadcaster and St. Clair resident Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick says he’ll never forget Moss singing the national anthem before Game 6 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final between the Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes.
“We were in Edmonton televising that game back to the United States and we always tried to cover both national anthems as much as commercials would allow,” Emrick said. “We came back and Joey Moss was there, singing the words to “O Canada” as passionately as anyone could sing. God bless that young man.”
Gagner, who “hung out” with Moss at the Oilers’ 2019 Christmas party before being acquired by the Red Wings in the Andreas Athanasiou trade in February, said the players never viewed him as someone with a developmental disability.
“I think the best message we should get across to everyone is it’s not what we did for Joey, but the other way around,” Gagner said. “It’s what he did for us. He gave us so much, such a perspective, always upbeat through the ups and downs of a season. He brought out the best in people and I’ll certainly miss him.”
As for the upcoming NHL season scheduled to start in the new year, Gagner said he finally plans on taking off a bit of time in November after one of the most “uncertain” years in a 13-year career which has seen the sixth overall pick in 2007 from the London Knights accumulate 459 points in 844 career games.
“At first, I prepared as if we were going to come back in March, but obviously that didn’t happen with us,” said Gagner, who re-signed with the Red Wings on a one-year contract for $850,000 last month. “I’ve been training since the beginning of the playoffs until now so it’s been a long time. You’ve got to give your body some time to heal and rest and make sure you’re ready for the grind when it does come.”