Oilers locker room attendant Joey Moss celebrates during former Oilers coach Glen Sather's banner retirement ceremony held before a NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers at Rexall Place on Friday December 11, 2015.
Edmonton locker room attendant Joey Moss cleans up the bench after an Edmonton Oilers practice held at Rexall Place on Monday December 28, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos locker room attendant Joey Moss cheers during a CFL game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Ottawa Redblacks at the Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Saturday, June 25, 2016. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia
Joey Moss (right) belts out the Canadian national anthem before the start of the Edmonton Oilers and Jose Sharks Game 5 of the first round of NHL playoff action at Rogers Place on April 20, 2017. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Hall of Famer Joey Moss, the long-time dressing room attendant of both the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Eskimos, has bellowed out O Canada for the final time.
Moss died Monday afternoon after a long struggle dealing with Alzheimer’s and a recent surgery involving a broken hip.
The 57-year-old Down syndrome inspiration that Wayne Gretzky managed to get a job as an Oilers locker room attendant when he was dating sister Vicki Moss, has been in a major health battle since breaking the hip falling back on July 28.
Joey spent his Sept. 25 birthday in isolation from COVID-19 when he was transferred from hospital to a new Winnifred Stewart facility.
Joey’s long-time guardian Stephen Moss, the baby in the family of 12 who provided most of the care to the 11th kid in the family, died of brain cancer a year and a half ago.
For most of his adult life, Moss’ sporting support group involved Barrie Stafford and Lyle ‘Sparky’ Kulchinsky of the Oilers equipment staff and Dwayne Mandrusiak who for the past 49-years had been with the football team.
While he has often been in the seats belting out the national anthem that he once even sang prior to an Eskimos game, Moss hasn’t been able to be a dressing room regular of late, doing his vacuuming duties.
The football players were always awestruck when Gretzky faithfully called him on his birthday every year, usually on the phone in Mandrusiak’s office at a practice.
Gretzky’s call has been difficult the last two years with Alzheimer’s and the complications involving Down syndrome at this stage of Moss’ life and especially this year with his hip surgery and the isolations involving the hospital and the facility relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19, however, was not a factor in his death.
“Janet & I are saddened to learn about the passing of Joey Moss. Not only was Joey a fixture in the Edmonton dressing room, he was someone I truly considered a friend. We will miss you Joey and you will always live on through our memories. Our thoughts are with Joey’s loved ones,” Gretzky said in a statement.
“On behalf of all the players who had the honour to get to know him, we are so saddened to hear the news of Joey’s passing. We were all lucky enough to be part of his life for a lot of years. His love for life always brought a smile to anyone who met him. Whether it was a coffee before practice or a big hug after a great win or a tough loss, he would put life in perspective. He will be missed but not forgotten, Once an Oiler always an Oiler. RIP Joe.”
There was almost certainly never a member of a sports franchise custodial staff so loved by a community or as famous as Joey Moss.
There are a lot of much less famous members of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame than Moss, who was inducted in 2015.
Stafford, whenever asked about Joey Moss, always made the point:
“He’s not a locker room attendant to anyone who knows him and works with him. He’s part of the team. In a lot of ways he’s the face of the Oilers.”
The same was true with the Eskimos.
Moss over the years was more recognizable than many of the players, and much more modest than them, too.
Stafford had the best quote on that aspect of it, too.
“Joey may be the only celebrity in the world who doesn’t really understand that he is one.”
Seven years ago there was so much love directed to the guy when both organizations went overboard to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Moss was working at a bottling depot when Gretzky was dating sister Vikki and got Joey the job in 1984. When that worked out, Gretzky called Mandrusiak to see if Joey could work the Eskimos training camp in 1986. He made the team.
How big had Joey Moss become in Edmonton?
Monday evening TSN 1260 radio ditched the Monday Night Football broadcast to stay on the air to produce special coverage of the death of Joey Moss.
Callers were suggesting a banner up there with the Oilers greats.
I suggest his own statue, out front of Rogers Place near Gretzky’s, singing the national anthem.
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