June 16 2009 01:38PM
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.