When Dominic Moore took a year away from the NHL, he did so with little to no fanfare.
Moore’s wife Katie was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in April 2012 and died Jan. 7, 2013, at the age of 32. The lockout had just ended, and his mind wasn’t on hockey.
There was no formal announcement, just the eventual realization that the free-agent centre wouldn’t be playing.
“It was a very difficult decision to decide to take some time away from the game,” he said in an interview last week. “At the same time it was the right decision. I didn’t want to do anything where I wasn’t going to be able to give it my full attention or focus.”
Fast-forward six months and Moore is ready to resume his career after signing a one-year, US$1-million deal with the New York Rangers. Moore hopes he can re-establish himself as an NHL regular and also use that stage to promote the Katie Moore Foundation and other charitable efforts.
“I think Dom is a 100-per-center. If he does something, he’s a 100-per-cent committed. I don’t think he would’ve been a 100 per cent committed to playing hockey at that time,” former Tampa Bay Lightning teammate and friend Marty St. Louis said in an interview Monday. “I’m so glad that he’s back playing next year.”
Moore, who has been able to work out and train aggressively in recent months, could fill a third- or fourth-line role with the Rangers, but he could have greater impact off the ice. And that’s before the 2013-14 season even begins.
Moore is hosting the second “Smashfest Charity Ping-Pong Challenge” July 25 in Toronto to raise money for the Katie Moore Foundation and some brain-injury and concussion-research groups. St. Louis, Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks, Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals, George Parros of the Montreal Canadiens and David Clarkson of the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the current players set to take part, in addition to former players like Eric Lindros, Mathieu Schneider and Kevin Weekes.
It’s a ping-pong event because, Moore said, there’s a table in every NHL locker-room and it’s a major part of NHL players’ culture. Several players from the Toronto area and beyond will be there because that’s what a fraternity like this does.
“The support through the hockey world is great,” Moore said. “Situations like this come up, you see how people come together to support each other, and I’m grateful for that.”
When Moore first got involved in charitable endeavours, it was with the hope of raising money and awareness for concussion research. His brother Steve’s career ended after he suffered a concussion and neck injury when Todd Bertuzzi violently attacked him from behind in 2004.
“The concussion stuff is obvious — we’re hockey players,” Moore said. “Obviously that’s an important issue for the hockey world.”
Over the past five months, the Thornhill native has tried to jump-start the Katie Moore Foundation for a very specific cause. Katie died of fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma after a nine-month battle.
“It’s geared towards rare cancers,” Moore said. “Obviously there’s a lot of money that’s been thrown around for cancer research and whatnot, but most of it goes to the big ones: breast cancer and lung cancer and things like that. There are a lot of people out there that are suffering from another rare disease. There a ton of these different less-common diseases that are not getting the attention or funding that maybe they could or should. That’s the intention behind what we’re doing.”
The focus of the Katie Moore Foundation is funding primarily non-traditional cancer-research projects in the Boston area, where Dominic and Katie met while at Harvard University.
It’ll be roughly nine months from the time Moore decided to take the lockout-shortened season off until he plays another game for the Rangers, the team that drafted him and gave him his NHL start.
“The Rangers for a variety of reasons were my first choice. I’m glad that came to fruition,” Moore said. “It feels like coming home for me given that’s where I started my career, and I always felt New York had a special place for me.”
That he’s playing anywhere in the NHL next season is special for those in hockey who know Moore and tried to help however possible in the past year or so.
“I love the way he plays the game, and I love what he’s done away from the game,” St. Louis said. “What he’s gone through, to come back from that, playing hockey at the highest level again, I’m looking forward to watching him play again.”