A few good men

Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009 01:38PM

Moreau in the penalty box

The old saying "nice guys finish last" isn't true. Sometimes, they wear the C for a NHL team like the Edmonton Oilers that finishes 11th and misses the playoffs by six points.

Such is the case with Ethan Moreau, who'll be honoured with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy -- presented to "the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community" -- Thursday, as reported by Jason Gregor at Oilersnation today.

Between injuries and three straight seasons out of the playoffs, it's been a trying stretch for Moreau, who has endured his fair share of criticism and disappointment in the seasons since the Oilers Stanley Cup run in the spring of 2006.

While some of that criticism for his on-ice play has been warranted and is duly documented here and elsewhere, Moreau's commitment, and that of his wife Ornella, to many worthy causes off the ice in Edmonton has never wavered. That's why he'll get the Clancy in Las Vegas.

So, while fans can debate how well Moreau performs his duties as team captain, his leadership or whether he takes too many selfish penalties, I can tell you first-hand Moreau is a good man.

You can never have too many of those.

Giving something back

"It just kind of something I've grown into," said Moreau, whose work for the Stollery Children's Hospital hits close to home for me. "I've kind of developed into that role in the community.

"The reason why, I think, is probably the same reason a lot of people do what they do. You try to leave this earth a better place. You don't just go through life accumulating wealth and just living for yourself.

"You're not here very long, so if you can have any sort of impact that's positive, it's very satisfying and it's something you should do if you get the opportunity."

The Oilers have always been very aware of the impact a player appearance can have on a charity. This is an organization with a track record of giving back. Players make countless appearances and raise untold money that benefits people, many of them children, in need.

That commitment starts at the top -- president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe won the Clancy in 1990 as captain of the Oilers -- and is a priority right through the organization.

And we're not just talking grip-and-grin photo-ops. Many players, notably guys like Georges Laraque and now Moreau, go well beyond that. They care. They give. And they do it of their own accord when the cameras aren't rolling and the notepads aren't open.

A piece of themselves

Becoming a father changed my life, perhaps more dramatically than with many people because of the circumstances surrounding my wife and son Sam -- a story I've told here. Suffice to say, I'm not a distanced, objective observer when it comes to the good deeds of people like Moreau.

On the ice, Moreau's tough as nails and mean as hell. Off it, it's another story. I remember going to Moreau's house after his son, Trey, was born (now eight) to do a story for The Journal. Coming off shoulder surgery, Moreau was the epitome of a doting dad.

I asked Moreau today if becoming a father -- he also has a seven-year-old daughter named Mia -- changed him, if it had anything to do with the ongoing commitment he's made to so many worthy causes in town.

"I've always kind of had a way with kids, even before I had my own," Moreau said. "You're born to do certain things. I was born to play hockey, but I've always been able to deal with kids.

"When there's a party going on, I'd rather be in a room full of eight and nine year olds than small-talk with adults. I've always felt really comfortable. I love kids. The best thing I can do is help kids who need that help."

No stat for this

Good year or bad, injuries or not, playoffs or no playoffs, Moreau keeps doing what he does without a lot of fanfare -- until Thursday in Las Vegas.

"It sounds corny, but when you make the world a slightly better place, it feels good," he said.

"It's like when you buy a present for somebody at Christmas and you have that feeling when they're about to open it, and it's a really cool present and you spent a lot of time picking it out. You know that feeling you get? Times that by about 100 and that's the feeling when you make a difference in somebody's day or somebody's life.

"I never realized how much of an impact we have when we go The Stollery or a place like that. You hear the feedback and you get e-mails and see what an impact it has. It's like, 'Wow!' You realize that, as a public figure, people enjoy spending a few minutes with you."

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Librarian Mike
June 16 2009, 01:45PM
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Interesting timing, as my boss sent us an email at work with the following poem: You matter - Seth Godin

When you love the work you do and the people you do it with, you matter. When you are so gracious and generous and aware that you think of other people before yourself, you matter. When you leave the world a better place than you found it, you matter. When you continue to raise the bar on what you do and how you do it, you matter. When you teach and forgive and teach more before you rush to judge and demean, you matter. When you touch the people in your life through your actions (and your words), you matter. When kids grow up wanting to be you, you matter. When you see the world as it is, but insist on making it more like it could be, you matter. When you inspire a Nobel prize winner or a slum dweller, you matter. When the room brightens when you walk in, you matter. And when the legacy you leave behind lasts for hours, days or a lifetime, you matter.

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#2 David S
June 16 2009, 02:13PM
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Nice piece Robin. I'm liking how Zach Stortini is turning into a great ambassador for the team too.

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#3 Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009, 02:29PM
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David S wrote:

Nice piece Robin. I’m liking how Zach Stortini is turning into a great ambassador for the team too.

I've run into Zack at a couple of charity events already this off-season. Interesting how it's often a tough guy, like Laraque or Stortini, or a gritty role player like Moreau he gets the most involved in these types of events. Like I said in the item, the Oilers have made a point of having players involved in the community. It's one of those feel-good stories that's a nice change-up from the angst and frustration over three straight years out of the playoffs.

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#4 Mason F
June 16 2009, 02:37PM
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Good to hear Ethan getting some well deserved recognition. While we here at the nation get worked up over a stupid penalty this is the stuff that really matters. PS keep Heatley as far away from Edmonton as possible!

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#5 risto
June 16 2009, 03:23PM
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Who votes on the Clancy?

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#6 The Towel Boy
June 16 2009, 03:38PM
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Pretty cool. Pretty cool, indeed. Good job Moreau.

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#7 West Coast Oil
June 16 2009, 03:50PM
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Helps put into perspective the human aspect of the players. This is a huge part of why I supported Moreau as captain and why I am glad to get this reminder as to why he should continue to be.

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#8 Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009, 04:05PM
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risto wrote:

Who votes on the Clancy?

The players. West Coast Oil wrote:

Helps put into perspective the human aspect of the players. This is a huge part of why I supported Moreau as captain and why I am glad to get this reminder as to why he should continue to be.

The bottom line for fans, and rightfully so, is results. You don't spend $75-$150 for tickets to a game to see a bunch of "nice guys." Fans want and deserve effort, entertainment and results.

That said, and human nature being what it is, in my years covering the team on a daily basis I sometimes struggled with being overly critical of players like Moreau. When you get to know the players, objectivity is sometimes difficult. When you know a player is a helluva guy, a committed athlete and really wants to succeed, your first inclination isn't to hammer him when he screws up or is playing poorly.

In the end, it's your job to criticize, but I always found myself giving players like Moreau, Laraque, Doug Weight etc more slack. Likewise, and again it's human nature, in the rare situation the Oilers had a guy who was a total dick with everybody, he didn't get as much rope.

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#9 Rich Zeng
June 16 2009, 04:33PM
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"We sell out every night, so no complaints as long as we continue to do that," -Ethan Moreau-

What a character guy!

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#10 Librarian Mike
June 16 2009, 04:34PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

in the rare situation the Oilers had a guy who was a total dick with everybody, he didn’t get as much rope.

I don't mean to be Gabby Gossip, but such as...?

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#11 willy fisterbotom
June 16 2009, 04:55PM
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congrats to ethan couldn't pick a nicer guy. good read robin thanks.

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#12 Oilersordeath
June 16 2009, 05:17PM
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Class act Moreau is, glad he is Oiler. Hope one day soon he will raise the cup, he deserves it.

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#13 Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009, 05:41PM
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Rich Zeng wrote:

“We sell out every night, so no complaints as long as we continue to do that,” -Ethan Moreau- What a character guy!

Why's there an arsehole in every crowd? Nice job, genius, cherry-picking a PARTIAL quote that was taken out of context and that the offending media outlet ended up apologizing for.

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#14 Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009, 05:52PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Robin Brownlee wrote: in the rare situation the Oilers had a guy who was a total dick with everybody, he didn’t get as much rope. I don’t mean to be Gabby Gossip, but such as…?

You do mean to be a gossip. There haven't been many over the years I've covered the Oilers, and that's the truth. Two examples . . . Jiri Dopita wasn't well-liked by anybody in his brief time here. He wasn't a team guy. Skipped the going away party when Mike Grier was traded. Chris Pronger gave a lot of reporters a hard time and pretty much thought his sh*t didn't stink.

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#15 Gene's Pubes
June 16 2009, 05:57PM
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"Why’s there an arsehole in every crowd?"

What kind of crowd are you in Robin?

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#16 kingsblade
June 16 2009, 06:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

in the rare situation the Oilers had a guy who was a total dick with everybody, he didn’t get as much rope.

ahhh I was too late. I was about to say Pronger but I see you already mentioned it.

you also mentioned the fact that it seems like its either tough guys or Moreau type players who get most involved in charity work. I think it has to do with a player's path to the NHL.

There is a certain sense of entitlement that skilled athletes have which was developed from a young age. Things are given to them, not the other way around. Even if a players is generally a good guy his perspective of the world has been altered.

On the other hand, a guy who has fought tooth and nail to make it might have a more grounded perspective and a better sense of the good his efforts can do.

Clearly there are exceptions to such an overly broad generalization, but it does seem to help explain certain trends like the one you mentioned.

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#17 KayleW
June 16 2009, 06:26PM
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Thanks for the very good read Robin. I've always been a huge Ethan Moreau fan on the ice but to read some of his off-ice commitments reinforces my belief that he is one of the good guys! Alot of posters on this site have stated that we need a captain who is the best or nearly the best player on the team, I firmly believe that your captain does not need to be the most skilled or highest paid but needs to be the hardest working player, whether he is a fourth liner or first liner. Moreau WANTS

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#18 KayleW
June 16 2009, 06:30PM
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to play in edmonton! unlike some players we wont name!

p.s. sorry bout the split post

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#19 Librarian Mike
June 16 2009, 06:50PM
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@ kingsblade:

It does seem like it's grinders who do lots of charity work, but I've got 2 examples of great, talented athletes who have done HUGE work for charities:

Ron Francis Doug Flutie

Personally, I just think it comes down to how you were brought up. Some people value that sort of thing while others just can't be bothered.

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#20 BigE57
June 16 2009, 07:18PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Personally, I just think it comes down to how you were brought up. Some people value that sort of thing while others just can’t be bothered.

That's so true. Many of us would like to help or contribute to worthy causes like the Stollery, and we do in our own way but celebrities and athletes have the rare opportunity to use their fame to put these causes front and centre.

Many of us have been critical of Moreau as Oilers captain but no one can question him on this. Good for him, he quite deserves this honour but I'm quite sure that's not why he does what he does.

Good article Robin....

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#21 Trailer Hitch Cover
June 16 2009, 07:49PM
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This is a most unfortunate situation. I did not know about it, and I am grateful to you for bringing it to our attention.

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#22 kingsblade
June 16 2009, 08:44PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

@ kingsblade: It does seem like it’s grinders who do lots of charity work, but I’ve got 2 examples of great, talented athletes who have done HUGE work for charities: Ron Francis Doug Flutie Personally, I just think it comes down to how you were brought up. Some people value that sort of thing while others just can’t be bothered.

as I said...

Clearly there are exceptions to such an overly broad generalization, but it does seem to help explain certain trends like the one you mentioned.

There is a definite trend pointing the other way despite the exceptions. There is a huge difference in the treatment received by stars as they grow up to the treatment of a player who has to fight for everything.

Plus, if you don't think Flutie had to fight his way up then you probably don't know that much about him. BC was the only 1-A to even look at him, then, even after putting up ridiculous numbers he wasn't drafted until the 11th round. I would say that lumps him squarely in the group of players who had to fight to make it.

That being said, I happily agree that there are many notable exception to my generalizations.

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#23 JP
June 16 2009, 08:49PM
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I can't figure out this one. A team that lacked leadership and needed leadership had a Captain who rarley blocked a shot, couldn't bridge the youth divide in the locker room (allegedly), and took as many stypuid penalties as he could take. This is leadership? On this team Souray or even Roloson were more deserving.

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#24 Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009, 09:13PM
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JP wrote:

I can’t figure out this one. A team that lacked leadership and needed leadership had a Captain who rarley blocked a shot, couldn’t bridge the youth divide in the locker room (allegedly), and took as many stypuid penalties as he could take. This is leadership? On this team Souray or even Roloson were more deserving.

How effective Ethan has been in recent seasons as a leader is up to debate, as mentioned HERE "While some of that criticism for his on-ice play has been warranted and is duly documented here and elsewhere" and HERE "So, while fans can debate how well Moreau performs his duties as team captain, his leadership or whether he takes too many selfish penalties . . ."

So, what is it you can't figure out? This item is about his contribution to the community. You can't let him have that without snivelling and moaning?

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#25 B-Rad
June 16 2009, 10:07PM
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I like the fact he is this involved, away from all the press and lights. When you think of events the team has them do, such as the autograph signing in the mall, where people wait hours on end, and they only sign for an hour. This is where it ends or near the end for some players who consider this "giving back". So I say congratulations to a guy in his position doing what he does for the Stollery.....

I really believe that a good guy like Ethan would be at the Stollery even if he wasn't an NHL player!

Solid work buddy!

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#26 Harlie
June 16 2009, 10:26PM
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* * ** * * * * * Clap Clap *

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#27 West SideMike
June 16 2009, 10:31PM
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Great read Robin. Sometimes, we get too worked up about the team on the ice and forget that most of them are actually great guys off the ice and give back a lot to the city they represent.

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#28 Bar Qu
June 16 2009, 10:57PM
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kingsblade wrote:

There is a certain sense of entitlement that skilled athletes have which was developed from a young age. Things are given to them, not the other way around. Even if a players is generally a good guy his perspective of the world has been altered. On the other hand, a guy who has fought tooth and nail to make it might have a more grounded perspective and a better sense of the good his efforts can do.

This is an absolutely true statement. I teach 10 year old kids who by the time they have reached me have already been wrecked by the hockey god complex. The ones who are 'great players' are invariably the bullies who reinforce their greatness by tormenting others and it is a rare kid who is both decent and a good player. The worst part of it is, all of them that come through my room will not make it to the NHL and will still have had their character twisted in the pursuit.

So yeah, I think it is important to celebrate a guy like Moreau for being the class act off the ice that he is. Thanks Robin. And my apologies to anyone on here who thinks I am smearing your kid - I am just speaking to my experiences.

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#29 Robin Brownlee
June 16 2009, 11:01PM
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West SideMike wrote:

Great read Robin. Sometimes, we get too worked up about the team on the ice and forget that most of them are actually great guys off the ice and give back a lot to the city they represent.

It's not so much forgetting as separating . . . on-ice stuff is one thing and there is certainly room to criticize Moreau for his play at times last season. It's not like he's a great guy so he should be able to play poorly without getting called on it -- a point that smart guy JP in comment 23 fails to grasp.

But, good or bad performances on the ice aside, this is a pretty big honour that should be recognized. Some guys take the money and believe their responsibility to the city they play in ends when the game does. Others, like Moreau, choose to make a difference.

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#30 KayleW
June 16 2009, 11:03PM
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personally I think giving back is an attitude we choose and I think that Ethan would give even if he wasn't in the NHL becuz it's how he has chosen to live. A lot of us think that it's an athlete's duty to give to his community, it's no more his duty than it is ours! As an ordinary joe we may not be making appearances at the Stollery but that in no way lets us off the hook! I'll be the first to admit I forget that at times but when I hear about all the effort these guys put in it embarasses me.

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#31 Bar Qu
June 16 2009, 11:06PM
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Bar Qu wrote:

The ones who are ‘great players’ are invariably the bullies who reinforce their greatness by tormenting others and it is a rare kid who is both decent and a good player.

Sorry I got backwardsed there. I meant to say "the bullies who reinforce their greatness by tormenting others are invariably the 'great players' in hockey and it is a rare kid who is both decent and a good player."

Again, I recognise it is a broad brush I am painting with, but it is my experience and I think it backs up kingsblade's point.

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#32 kingsblade
June 16 2009, 11:27PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

But, good or bad performances on the ice aside, this is a pretty big honour that should be recognized.

Well said. Contributions like his need to be recognized for the benefit provided above and beyond the scope of the hockey team.

A winning team is great entertainment for the fans, but its work like Moreau has been doing that deserves real respect.

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#33 PaperDesigner
June 16 2009, 11:46PM
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Aw, now I'm going to feel bad if the Oilers trade him in the off-season to clear some cap room.

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#34 Robin Brownlee
June 17 2009, 07:01AM
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PaperDesigner wrote:

Aw, now I’m going to feel bad if the Oilers trade him in the off-season to clear some cap room.

You'll get over it . . .

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#35 Joey Moss
June 17 2009, 08:22AM
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Does being a nice guy qualify you to be captain of the Oil? I really hope that isn't the determining factor, but it appears to be - based on last seasons performance I would say he isn't exactly a leader of men.

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#36 Cam
June 17 2009, 09:51AM
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Joey Moss wrote:

Does being a nice guy qualify you to be captain of the Oil? I really hope that isn’t the determining factor, but it appears to be - based on last seasons performance I would say he isn’t exactly a leader of men.

I believe it is his work ethic, his time with the club, his voice int he dressing room, and also his conduct off the ice.

It is the whole package.

I do not believe Ethan is the reason why this team underperformed. He and Staios left everything on the ice, and provided a keen example of what was needed from other more skilled forwards.

You can only lead a horse to water, you cannot make them drink.

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#37 B-rad
June 17 2009, 09:59AM
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Joey Moss wrote:

Does being a nice guy qualify you to be captain of the Oil? I really hope that isn’t the determining factor, but it appears to be - based on last seasons performance I would say he isn’t exactly a leader of men.

Come on buddy....you know he wasn't chosen because he is a nice guy. He has all the leadership qaulitys we neeeded....who would you have given it to at that time? He has the ears and eyes of the room....

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#38 Joey Moss
June 17 2009, 10:07AM
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@ B-rad:

from what i've heard there was some dysfunction in the room this last year... i have not heard moreau say or do anything that merits wearing the C. a captain should lead by example on ice - and taking bone-headed penalties late in the game (and not providing much else) is not leadership. at the very least i would have liked to have heard a story or two about how pissed off moreau was about the way this season went but he just seemed indifferent to the whole thing.

who would i have made captain when smith left town? probably Hemsky.

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#39 Westcoastoil
June 17 2009, 10:15AM
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Good story on Moreau. You might have picked a better picture than one that shows him in the box given all the spank he's taken for bad penalties...but the "i'm lovin it" does work

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#40 roughneck
June 17 2009, 10:23AM
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"You try to leave this earth a better place"

congratulations ethan for doing just that.

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#41 roughneck
June 17 2009, 10:26AM
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Joey Moss wrote:

who would i have made captain when smith left town? probably Hemsky.

Good one!

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#42 Dominoiler
June 17 2009, 10:30AM
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Its nice to put the criticisms away for a while and enjoy the positives of someones contributions...

Right on for Moreau...

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#43 Westcoastoil
June 17 2009, 10:55AM
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Shifting gears - I was listening to the Quinn interview up on the team website. He made some good comments on Heatley and the difference between having good players and having a good team. He then went on to talk about the current roster's talent level. He said "you've got a great talented centre here that never distributes the puck. So is he a great talent, yeah, but he never distributes the puck; it's like playing with the Lone Ranger". Who is he referring to? Horcoff, Gagne, Hemsky (mistakenly calling him a centre).

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#44 MrOiler
June 17 2009, 12:59PM
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It's nice to see Moreau get some attention for his efforts.

For those short-sighted individuals who only see the stats, look at it from the Oilers organizational point of view. Goodwill is generated by community work. Even accountants recognize goodwill on financial statements. And goodwill can pay off for years, even decades where a good season is fleeting. Anyone remember Jimmy Carson?

1988-89 Edmonton Oilers 80gp 49g 51a 100pt

Not a lot of goodwill generated there, I suspect. But he sure had the stats. Did it matter? Nope.

From a purely ROI point of view, goodwill can pay off a much greater return than 7 more goals and 20 less penalty minutes. Guys like Moreau have value, that's why the league recognizes them.

p.s. - when Moreau was selected as Captain, the consensus in all the polls on all the boards was that he was the guy.

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#45 MrOiler
June 17 2009, 01:02PM
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Westcoastoil wrote:

Shifting gears - I was listening to the Quinn interview up on the team website. He made some good comments on Heatley and the difference between having good players and having a good team. He then went on to talk about the current roster’s talent level. He said “you’ve got a great talented centre here that never distributes the puck. So is he a great talent, yeah, but he never distributes the puck; it’s like playing with the Lone Ranger”. Who is he referring to? Horcoff, Gagne, Hemsky (mistakenly calling him a centre).

I heard that too. I think he mistakenly thinks that Hemsky is a center. Or, he's mixed up Horcoff and Hemsky.

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#46 Milli
June 17 2009, 03:37PM
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@ Rich Zeng: Let it go dude, let it go.

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#47 Milli
June 17 2009, 04:08PM
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Another thing, I really don't think that there is any question how he leads, and that he does LEAD. One other little thing, for a third line grinder who leaves it all on the ice, how many goals last year? I remember early in the season, he was on fire. I think that with Moreua you can take shots at him, but most times when he takes a dumb penalty it's because he's trying too hard, not because he lazy or stupid, it's cuz he wants to win. I think if more of our team played this way, we'd of been alot more fun to watch. His work off the ice, that makes him a man and a leader in the room and in the community. GOOD ON HIM!!!!

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#48 KayleW
June 17 2009, 05:30PM
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@joey moss Seriously dude, give ur head a shake, while hemsky might be the oilers most skilled player, do u really want the rest of the players following his lead when it comes to hard work and dedication? Right, I didn't think so! Hemsky hasn't shown me ONE reason why he should be captain. You could make an argument for a cpl others but NOT hemsky!

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#49 MikeP
June 17 2009, 09:58PM
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kingsblade wrote:

There is a certain sense of entitlement that skilled athletes have which was developed from a young age.

Like Wayne Gretzky or another fellow RB already mentioned, Doug Weight?

Psych 101 class is that way, it already started.

Avatar
#50 Robin Brownlee
June 17 2009, 10:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

KayleW wrote:

@joey moss Seriously dude, give ur head a shake, while hemsky might be the oilers most skilled player, do u really want the rest of the players following his lead when it comes to hard work and dedication? Right, I didn’t think so! Hemsky hasn’t shown me ONE reason why he should be captain. You could make an argument for a cpl others but NOT hemsky!

As the first player off the ice at every practice, Hemsky would make great captain because he could get started preparing a nice meal for the boys back in the dressing room lounge . . .

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