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
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
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(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),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); } //

Edmonton Oilers locker-room attendant Joey Moss on the Oilers’ bench at Rogers Place in Edmonton, on April 28, 2017.

CODIE MCLACHLAN/The Globe and Mail

Joey Moss, the most famous person in the hockey world who never played hockey, became an unlikely sports legend with his upbeat attitude, work ethic and sense of humour.

A locker-room attendant across parts of four decades, he spent more time around the Edmonton Oilers than almost anyone in the NHL club’s history.

Mr. Moss, who had Down syndrome, was an inspiration to people with developmental disabilities for his high-profile involvement with the city’s two major professional sports teams.

Story continues below advertisement

Joey Moss, long-time fixture in Edmonton Oilers dressing room, dies at 57

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

Joey Moss over the years

He was beloved throughout the Oilers organization and fans considered him as much a part of the team as star players such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Connor McDavid.

Mr. Moss died Monday in an Edmonton hospital at 57 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Known for his sunny disposition, he bellowed out the words of O Canada from his seat behind the bench at home games and had an enduring relationship with Mr. Gretzky. The Great One met him in 1980 when he was dating Mr. Moss’s sister, Vikki, and helped him land the clubhouse duties. At times, he even lived with Mr. Gretzky.

Mr. Moss, Wayne Gretzky's greatest fan, presents him with a banner bearing his number during a jersey retirement ceremony at Skyreach Centre in Edmonton on Oct. 1, 1999.

JEFF MCINTOSH/The Canadian Press

“He was just a special young man,” Mr. Gretzky said Wednesday during a video call with journalists. "He fit in right from the beginning. He was never out of place. He brought a ray of sunshine and fond memories to all of us.

"He made our lives better. It wasn’t just us that made his life better.”

Social media has been flooded with condolence messages from clubs and players around the league, as well as the National Hockey League Players' Association and the NHL Alumni Association.

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

Story continues below advertisement

Wayne Gretzky lost a long-time friend with the death of Edmonton Oilers locker-room attendant Joey Moss on Monday. The Canadian Press

The 12th of 13 children, Mr. Moss began working for the Oilers part-time in 1982 and came on full-time in 1984. He helped the team’s training staff from the start of summer camp to the final whistle each spring.

Peter Pocklington, who owned the Oilers from 1976 until 1998, sent condolences in an e-mail on Tuesday.

“Joey was funny, smart, personable, hard working and in possession of a big heart that put a smile on everyone’s faces," he wrote. “In other words, he was a giant despite his small stature.”

With his hard work and positive attitude, 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.

Former Oilers Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier along with Mr. Moss during the closing ceremonies at Rexall Place in Edmonton on April 6, 2016.

Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

“Heartbreaking to hear about Joey Moss passing away,” Andrew Ference, the team’s former captain, said on Twitter. “He is the soul of the @EdmontonOilers. I’ll remember him singing the anthem with pride, getting fired up about wrestling, and always asking if I combed my hair with a pork chop.”

Along with singing and dancing, professional wrestling was one of Mr. Moss’s biggest passions. As a 50th birthday present, the Oilers gave him tickets to a WrestleMania event at the Superdome in New Orleans and paid his expenses.

Story continues below advertisement

Another time, players got together and bought him a replica of a WWE championship belt. To entertain them, Mr. Moss would wear it on occasion as he tidied up the dressing room.

Two of the team’s toughest guys over the years -- Dave Semenko and Georges Laraque -- would play wrestle with him on the dressing room floor.

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

“When I saw that, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Mr. Gretzky said Wednesday. “I thought there has to be something we could do to make life more comfortable for him.”

Mr. Moss is introduced during the Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup Reunion at Rexall Place on Oct. 10, 2014 in Edmonton.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

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

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

Story continues below advertisement

“When I met Joey I was very comfortable and understood his mindset because I had kind of grown up with it," Mr. Gretzky said.

Mr. Moss lived at an assisted-living facility in Edmonton. He was one of about 45,000 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, looked after him before his death in June, 2019, from glioblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer. Joey Moss worked in the dressing room at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, but did not return when the pandemic-interrupted season restarted this summer. He had been afflicted with Alzheimer’s for three years.

In lieu of flowers, his family has asked for donations to the Winnifred Stewart Association, an organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities. It has 11 group homes around Edmonton. They are known as Joey’s Homes.

“We lost a living legend,” Don Iveson, Edmonton’s mayor, said on Tuesday. “He showed Edmonton and the world that everyone has something to offer on any team.”

At a Canadian Down Syndrome Society conference in 2015, Mr. Moss served as the ambassador, according to his late brother. Afterward, a woman approached with her one-year-old cradled in her arms and asked for his autograph.

Story continues below advertisement

“I hope my little boy can be an inspiration like you,” she said.

“I’m not sure we will even understand the impact he had,” Mr. Gretzky said. “As a team, we made people happy by winning championships. He made people happy and gave hope to parents of kids with a mental disability with what he did.”

Already people are suggesting that the Oilers rename the community rink attached to their home arena, Rogers Place, after him. Others say his name should be placed on a banner and lifted to the rafters to join banners honouring Mr. Gretzky and other Edmonton icons.

“There was nothing like coming off the ice after a huge win to a Joey Moss high-five on the bench,” said Cam Talbot, the team’s former goaltender. “His energy and passion for the game were infectious and made you want to come to the rink every day. He truly was a legend and will be greatly missed.”

In 2015, Mr. Moss was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, honouring his contributions and dedication to both the Oilers, as well as the Edmonton Football Team in the Canadian Football League. He held a similar position with the city’s CFL club since 1986. In 2017, the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society and the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers honoured him at their annual meetings.

On Sunday, Lyle Kulchisky, the Oilers' long-time equipment manager, visited Mr. Moss in the hospital to say goodbye.

Story continues below advertisement

“Before I left, I said, ‘Joey, thank you for making me a better person,’ ” Mr. Kulchisky said. “That is what he did.”

Mr. Gretzky shared some of his stories about Mr. Moss. He sang La Bamba at the team’s Christmas parties and blew kisses to everyone gathered. He loved hamburgers so much that the training staff once put him on a diet. He was a good athlete and enjoyed playing ball hockey in the street with the Great One.

Mr. Gretzky said he never worried that Mr. Moss would not be well taken care of when he was traded from Edmonton to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.

“I never even thought about it,” Mr. Gretzky said. “They would trade me before Joey. Joey was a lifer.”

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 feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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