Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Long-time Oilers dressing room attendant Joey Moss, front, with former players Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier as a banner is lowered during a ceremony at Rexall Place in Edmonton on April 6, 2016.

Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Joey Moss, a long-time fixture in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room and an inspiration to people with mental disabilities, died Monday afternoon at age 57.

Born with Down syndrome, he began a long and lasting relationship with Wayne Gretzky in 1980.

The Great One was dating Moss’s sister, Vikki, at the time and helped him land a job with the NHL team as an equipment manager. Moss was beloved by everyone in the organization and served in that position until recently.

Story continues below advertisement

Growing up in Ontario in the 1960s, Gretzky had an aunt with Down syndrome. At the time, children with the chromosomal disorder were often placed in institutions. Gretzky’s grandmother would not hear of it and brought his father’s sister to live with them.

Remembering Joey Moss, an unlikely sports legend

Oil King: Joey Moss, Wayne Gretzky and the most remarkable relationship in all of sports

Joey Moss over the years

“The thing about people with Down syndrome is that they have unconditional love,” Gretzky said in an interview in 2017. "My aunt was the same way, and we treated her like everybody else. We never looked at her differently.

“That is how it is with Joey.”

When they met, Gretzky was 20 and Joey was 17. He worked at a bottle depot in Edmonton, and Gretzky would often see him outside waiting for a bus to take him to work, even when it was 40 below.

“After a while, I thought maybe there was something the Oilers could find for him to do that was more comprehensive and rewarding and would help him have an easier life,” said Gretzky, who is now a partner and chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, the NHL team’s parent company.

Moss presents Wayne Gretzky with a banner at his jersey-retirement ceremony at the Skyreach Center on Oct. 1, 1999.

JEFF MCINTOSH/The Canadian Press

Eventually, the Oilers star approached Glen Sather, Edmonton’s Hall of Fame coach and general manager, and asked if the team could find Moss a job. Sather told him to bring him in, and Moss was assigned to keep the Oilers dressing room clean, help with laundry, fill water bottles and hand out towels.

“He did just about everything in the dressing room,” Sather said in 2017. “If there were players in his way while he was cleaning, he would just whack them with his broom.”

Story continues below advertisement

Moss lived in an assisted-living facility in Edmonton named after him. He was one of about 40,000 Canadians with Down syndrome. Like others with the condition, he had eyes the shape of almonds, and his frame was small. He functioned well despite having an intellectual disability.

His late brother, Stephen, had looked after him before his death in June, 2019, from gioblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer that affects the brain or spinal cord.

“On behalf of the entire Oilers organization, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the Moss family and Joey’s many friends in our community and across North America,” said Jeff Lang, Edmonton’s equipment manager, in a statement Monday. "Joey was an amazing person whose true passion and dedication to the organization, players and love of the game touched countless members of the hockey community.

“He will be forever remembered for the amazing impact he has made on so many people along the way.”

Tributes to Moss began to pour in on social media almost immediately upon word of his death.

“Today we lost a living legend," Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in a post on Twitter Monday night. “He showed Edmonton and the world that everyone has something to offer on any team.”

Story continues below advertisement

Connor McDavid, the Oilers superstar, remembered him Tuesday morning.

“Oil Country sure won’t be the same without you,” McDavid said. “Thanks for always brightening up my day, Joey, and may you rest easy my friend.”

Dallas Eakins, the head coach of the Anaheim Ducks, said he was heartbroken.

“He always found a way to put a smile on our faces and remind us what was really important," said Eakins, who once coached the Oilers. "He went out of his way to make others feel great. The memories of Joey will continue to inspire me.”

Moss sings the national anthem prior to a playoff game against the San Jose Sharks on April 20, 2017, at Rogers Place.

Andy Devlin

The 12th of 13 children, Moss began working for the Oilers in 1984. He could always be seen helping other members of the team’s training staff from the start of training camp to the final whistle each spring.

With his upbeat attitude, work ethic and sense of humour, he became an inspiration to many current and former Oilers. He bonded with players and staff over the years and often stayed at their houses overnight.

Story continues below advertisement

“Joey lifted my spirits every time I entered our facilities at Rexall Place,” said Luke Gazdic, a former Oilers forward. "He was kind, funny, intelligent, and above all else, loyal. The big guy will be missed by many.”

Each spring, Moss travelled to Las Vegas to sing the national anthem before the start of a fantasy camp put on by Gretzky beside the pool at the Bellagio.

At a Canadian Down Syndrome Society conference in 2015, Moss served as the ambassador. Afterward, a woman approached him with her one-year-old cradled in her arms and asked him for his autograph. “I hope my little boy can be an inspiration like you are,” she said.

In 2006, when the Oilers made their last sustained playoff run, Moss put off hernia surgery so he could see the team through. He did not travel with them often at the time but made the trip to Raleigh, N.C., for the Stanley Cup Finals when Edmonton lost to the Hurricanes.

Walking a few blocks to a restaurant with the training staff, he was stopped on the street. People driving by honked their horns. As he ate lunch, diners asked for his autograph.

“He is the most famous guy in Edmonton and doesn’t even know it,” Barrie Stafford, the Oilers' equipment manager from 1981 to 2000, said in 2017. "He is an iconic Canadian, not just an Edmontonian.

Story continues below advertisement

“He represents more. On a larger scale, what he has accomplished covers a gambit that includes dealing with disabilities and equality and inclusion. I can’t imagine the Oilers without him.”

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies