By Rob Ficiur
This past week two off ice heroes were honored by the sporting world. Unlike players who are heroes one day (year) and goats the next, these two have been and will be heroes for 30 years or more going back in time. Going forward their names won’t be forgotten.
Joey Moss – Alberta Sports Hall of Fame – Joey Moss is the 51 year old locker room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers. For more than 30 years Moss, who has Down Syndrome, has been working for the Oilers in this capacity.
His first introduction to the Oilers was when his sister was dating Wayne Gretzky. Wayne saw Joey working at the bottle depot and hoped he could get a job for Joey with the team. Long after Wayne and the other Dynasty Oilers retired, Joey has kept his job. His main duties with the team include cleaning, handling towels and water, and running errands for former equipment manager.
Joey’s fame has gone far beyond his working for a hockey team. In the last thirty years society has learned that disabled people can do more things than previously thought. In 2003 Moss received the NHL Alumni Association’s “Seventh Man Award” for his behind-the-scenes service to the league. The Joey Moss Cup is a trophy the Oilers players compete for in an annual split-squad game near the end of training camp.
On Saturday Hockey Night in Canada interviewed Joey about his selection to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Moss did a great interview, sharing his excitement and expressing gratitude for his family.
Joey Moss has consistently done his job for the Edmonton Oilers. In doing this year after year he has shown that a person can be an integral part of an organization in spite of a disability.
Ken Taylor – Former Canadian Ambassador to Iran – This week another non-athlete received a standing ovation during a hockey game in Madison Square Gardens. The New York Rangers took a moment to honor and thank to Canadian Ken Taylor for helping six Americans who were in trouble.
Taylor’s moment of heroism took place 35 years ago, before any of the hockey players in that game were born. In November 1979 Iranian students took over the American embassy in Tehran. The hostage crisis would go on to last 444 days. When you read about it in a “history” book it all seems neat and clean, but at the time, the world look on the brink of war. (It got worse when a month later the Soviet Union invaded a country we never of before called Afghanistan.)
Ken Taylor was the Canadian ambassador in Iran when the crisis broke out. A few days after the Americans were taken hostage, six other Americans found their way to the Canadian embassy looking for help. Knowing that lives, both Canadian and American were at stake, Taylor made arrangements for Ottawa to create false passports and receipts so that the six Americans could try to leave Iran safely. The process took several weeks but in January 1980 the six Americans with false Canadian passports were able to get out of Iran a year before their fellow countrymen were freed.
At the time Canadians, and especially Ken Taylor and his staff were honored as heroes by the Americans. More Canadian flags flew that week south of the border than at any time in history.
More than three decades later it was great to see Ken Taylor honored for his act of courage and heroism. In sports heroes come and go. Fans realize that they are playing a game. In reality who wins those games really does not matter much in the course of day to day life. However, there are times when there are real heroes who go out of their way to help save the lives of others. These are real heroes.
Our sporting world is a better place when we pause to take time to honor real life heroes. It reminds us what is really important.