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.

  • B-Rad

    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!

  • Robin Brownlee

    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?

  • 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.

  • kingsblade

    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.

  • BigE57

    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….

  • Librarian Mike

    @ 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.

  • KayleW

    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

  • kingsblade

    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.

  • Robin Brownlee

    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.

  • Robin Brownlee

    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.

  • Librarian Mike

    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…?

  • Robin Brownlee

    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.

  • West Coast Oil

    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.

  • Mason F

    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!

  • Robin Brownlee

    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.

  • Librarian Mike

    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.