Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why I'm Pulling For The NY Rangers In The Stanley Cup Finals

I am not a hockey fan. Growing up in Florida, we didn't do a whole lot with hockey. The Panthers had their run to the Stanley Cup Finals and then were swept right back into mediocrity by the Avalanche. Tampa Bay won the Cup a few years back, but let's be honest - who outside of Tampa really cares about Tampa teams?

I would watch the obligatory playoff game(s), I would crack the occasional (on the nose) "I turned on a fight and a hockey game broke out" joke, but that was the extent of my involvement with hockey. So I have no reason to pull for either team in the 2014 Finals. But I am a huge New York Rangers fan now. You might argue that it’s because I live in the NY area (I do), or because I have money on the game (I don’t), but it’s more than that. In fact, it’s Moore.

The three brothers Moore (Mark, Steve, Dominic) all grew up in Toronto, all attended Harvard, all played hockey for the Crimson (even overlapping for one year, 1999-2000), all went on to professional hockey careers, all saw their careers either shortened by bad luck, incredibly stupidity (not on their part) and heart break.

Mark was drafted by the Penguins in 1997, graduated from Harvard in 2000, went to Pittsburgh’s training camp and was sent to the minors. He was never able to make it to the Big Show, as he suffered a career-ending concussion when a teammate’s helmet collided with his chin during practice.

It seems unfair to label what happened to Steve as incredible stupidity, but I really can’t think of what else to call it. I don’t believe that what happened to him was malicious, it was just one of those “my name is Iniego Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die” situations that seems (seemed?) so prevalent in hockey. I’m referring, of course, to this:

Even I, non-hockey fan that I am, remember this incident. March 8, 2004, Todd Bertuzzi punched Steve in the back of the head and then essentially pushed Steve’s face into the ice. I don’t feel that Bertuzzi meant to hurt Steve any more than the hurt that is inflicted in a “normal” hockey fight. But it was just so stupid, so incredibly unthinking of Bertuzzi to hit a guy like that.

Steve suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion and Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely, which basically became the rest of that season and all of next season as the NHL was locked out. In fact, Bertuzzi was suspended for 17 months…and missed only 20 games. He also lost out on approximately $900,000 in salary and endorsements.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the victim suffered, among other things, "uncertainty, anxiety, stress and emotional pain for the…family." Wait, Bettman was actually referring to Bertuzzi in that quote? That was why he lifted the indefinite suspension?! Gary Bettman, everyone!

Again I don’t believe that Bertuzzi meant to cause the damage that he did. I think it was just a moronic action by someone who obviously wasn't giving the consequences of his actions even a first thought. I certainly hope that Bertuzzi feels guilty about what happened and thinks about it every day. But regardless, Steve’s career was over.

Dominic did not suffer any physical harm, but I would argue that of the three brothers, he was hit the hardest. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2003 and then went through seven trades and nine teams over the course of nine seasons. His college sweetheart, Katie, who played soccer at Harvard, traveled with him every step of the way. But then in 2012, Katie was diagnosed with cancer and Dominic stepped away from hockey altogether as she fought, and sadly lost, the good fight. ESPN’s Outside the Lines and Jeremy Schapp did a masterful job of telling the story. WARNING: when you watch this video, wherever you are, dust will attack your eyes. You will need tissues.

I know that the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup will not allow Mark or Steve to resume their hockey careers, or bring Katie back to Dominic. But for a family that seems to have suffered so much within and outside of the sport, it would be great if the sport could give something back to them. That is why I will be actively, and loudly, cheering on the Blueshirts.

First I gotta figure out how this sport works.

NOTE: Dominic started a foundation in his wife’s name to help patients and families deal with rare cancers:

Steve established a foundation that focuses on the prevention and treatment of concussions and other head/neck injuries:

Mark wrote a book about hockey entitled Saving The Game.

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