A few good men

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.

  • Bar Qu

    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.

  • kingsblade

    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.

  • Joey Moss

    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.

  • Cam

    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.

  • B-rad

    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….

  • Joey Moss

    @ 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.

  • Westcoastoil

    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

  • Westcoastoil

    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).

  • MrOiler

    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.

  • MrOiler

    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.

  • Milli

    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!!!!

  • KayleW

    @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!

  • 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.

  • Robin Brownlee

    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 . . .