New York Rangers’ Dominic Moore has had a rough couple of years. His wife, Katie, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer. After she was diagnosed, he took a leave of absence from the NHL to help care for her.
In January 2013, she passed away at the age of 32.
As a result of her passing, he started the Katie Moore Foundation (katiemoore.org). The foundation is designed to assist patients with rare cancers and their families through research, advocacy and community.
Moore returned to the NHL in the fall following his wife’s death to play for the New York Rangers. It is his perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey that led to his nomination of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an award that Jaromir Jagr (New Jersey Devils) and Manny Malhotra (Carolina Hurricanes) are also nominated for.
“Coming back this year,” Moore said. “Those were the things that were important. I’m grateful for the nomination. I’m grateful for my teammates. I’m grateful for the organization helping me through those early months of coming back to playing. In that amount of time, there’s no shortcuts. I guess ‘grateful’ sums it up.”
“The early months of the season were much harder than I expected. I expected them to be really hard. They were much harder than that. I’m grateful for my teammates for helping me get through that. Slowly, but surely, day by day I was able to build things up on a personal level. Also, with the team, it was kind of on the same track. It got better and better as the season went on. So to share kind of that end of the season that we had [going to the Stanley Cup Finals], together with my teammates and me personally, kind of where I was starting to feel personally, as far as coming back, it was very rewarding.”
Moving forward and getting back into the game was more difficult than he imagined.
“Literally everything [was difficult]. When you take however many months off, or a year, obviously, literally everything, including your routine on a game day and when you eat your pre-game meal…everything seems foreign to you. Obviously on the ice, it’s the most pronounced thing where these things you take for granted, having played the game your whole life are basically gone and you have to re-learn them and it takes time.
“The coaches were patient with me and I’m thankful for that. Mostly, it was frustrating for me, because I knew what kind of player I am and what I can do and what I hope to do. It just took some time to build that up. I pride myself in my whole career of just trying to get better everyday. That’s just my attitude about the way I approach my job. That was something that was extremely helpful in this situation this year, just trying to stay focused just on getting better and let the rest take care of itself.
“The early months of the season, it’s such a struggle,” he said of the doubts he had at the beginning when he returned. “You’re just trying to keep your head above water. You definitely doubt. You’re just not feeling confident, not feeling like you can play the game well. That’s why it was helpful to focus on just improving and get lost in working hard and getting better. Eventually, hopefully that takes you where you need to be. With the help of my teammates and the team, we did. That’s what’s most rewarding about it was getting through all that.”
“It was always the plan to come back,” he said of the driving point to come back to the NHL after his wife died. “Obviously, you never know how things are going to work out. You know it’s going to be tough going into that, but you try to prepare well. Like I said, there’s no shortcuts for when you do come back. You can’t go from Point A to Point B without going through the steps in between and that was tough.”
The Katie Moore Foundation is still in its early stages, but it has started to raise a lot of interest in the hockey community.
“The foundation is something we started and it’s still a work in progress. We’re just starting it out, obviously. It’s been amazing to get the support of so many people already. It means a lot. Hopefully, we can slowly but surely make some progress on the mission of what we’re trying to do with rare cancers. I also like hearing from people. Sharing the story, the reason to share it is if you can be helpful for other people in some way. It’s been nice to hear from people through the foundation or through fans that come and tell you something about their life, that’s something that is rewarding as well.”
One other player nominated for an award this year is Moore’s close friend and former teammate, Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks). One of the reasons why Burns is nominated for the NHL Foundation Player Award is due to the fact he helped raise $24,000 for Defending the Blue Line and the Katie Moore Foundation by shaving off his long hair and beard.
“Burnsie is obviously a close friend and a great guy. That kind of thing just speaks so loudly of the kind of person he is. I’m very proud of him that he’s nominated. He’s a great teammate and a great friend. It definitely means a lot.”
Having both players nominated for awards this year says something special about hockey. It was a rare disease that took the wife of a hockey player. He continued to move forward and go back to the game. His teammates, team, friends and the hockey community rallied to not only remember a special woman, but to help others because of her. It also is helping him heal from the loss and move forward one step at a time.