2015 Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Inductee impresses the Great One and others everyday.
Each year, notables from the world of sports are inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. The list of inductees for 2015 includes Joey Moss, a man of humble beginnings, who has overcome the odds to become a mainstay in the locker room for the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Eskimos sports teams—and an inspiration to people everywhere.
Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky feels that Joey Moss was “put on earth for a reason.” He “can’t say enough” about how Joey has “opened so many doors for mentally-challenged kids.”
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society also named Joey an “Ambassador” for their 2015 conference in Edmonton, saying “Joey’s accomplishments make him the perfect representative for Edmonton.”
Joey’s numerous honours and achievements encompass the National Hockey League’s 2003 Seventh Man Award for outstanding contributions to the league off the ice; a City of Edmonton-commissioned mural on 99th Street; the Winnifred Stewart Association’s assisted-living facility, which carries his name (Joey’s Home); a City of Edmonton Mayor’s Award in 2007, and more.
Joey Moss entered the world in 1963, as the 12th child (of 13) of Sophie and Lloyd Moss, a modest Edmonton couple. Joey was born with an extra chromosome, a condition known as Down Syndrome, which generally includes varying degrees of developmental delay or disability. At the time, people with Down Syndrome were sometimes institutionalized, but Joey remained at home with his family. He was educated at the Winnifred Stewart School, and took part in family activities—from playing street hockey to occasionally strumming a guitar with the Moss family band, which toured the North and won many festival awards.
Joey’s fame really started when his older sister, Vikki, began dating a young hockey player in town, Wayne Gretzky. Vikki—now a designer, business owner, wife and mother, based in California—was the 11th child, following several brothers. Lloyd Moss died in 1977, and the family was not well-off. As Vikki tells it, their fun was mostly playing in a park across the street from their home.
Vikki was a tomboy, who met Wayne Gretzky before he went pro, and she was treated like one of the guys. When she was 17 and Wayne was 18, they started dating, and her younger brothers, Joey and Stephen, were often tagging along with her, as they had been since she was a young child.
As a typical young woman wanting to be independent, attempting to develop her own career as a singer, Vikki was not always overjoyed to have her siblings hanging around. However, Wayne developed an affinity with her brothers, and would often invite Steve and Joe to join in on activities. Wayne would do things to make the boys feel special, such as inviting them to golf tournaments and having them make the last putt, or flying Joey to the Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. Eventually, Vikki and Wayne moved in together, and he would bring Joey to their home on weekends.
According to younger brother, Stephen Moss, Joey’s guardian, who lives and works in Edmonton, Joey began to be recognized, and he would often be asked to participate in other activities or charitable events. Joey enjoyed the activities, and the invitations have continued to this day. He still engages in many enterprises, whenever possible. Vikki says the family is “proud and overjoyed” about Joey’s involvements and success.
The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, is still so inspired by Joey that, when informed by Vikki about this article, he volunteered to call and be interviewed (while in an airport, en route to a family vacation!) about his perspective.
Wayne has personal experience with developmental disabilities through his dad’s sister, who lived with Down Syndrome, while Wayne was growing up. She was born in the 1950s, when children were often placed in institutions to live, and sometimes, overmedicated. Wayne’s Polish grandmother could not read or write, but she had opinions and was against institutionalization.
“Wayne recalls that Joey was ‘a breath of fresh air’ in the Oilers dressing room.”
Therefore, when Wayne met Joey Moss, he connected to him in a special way. The hockey player understood “Joey was from a good family” and noted “Sophie (Joey’s mom) treated him like everyone else.” After Joey’s graduation from school, he was working in a bottle depot for $1 per hour. Wayne went to his coach, Glen Sather, and asked if the Edmonton Oilers could employ Joe in their locker room. Two years later, Joey started working for the Edmonton Eskimos in a similar capacity, and he is still a fixture in the teams’ locker rooms to this day.
Wayne recalls that Joey was “a breath of fresh air” in the Oilers dressing room. Whenever the Oilers lost a game, especially in the playoffs, Joey “always had a smile and a positive outlook” that uplifted the team.
Wayne also credits the people of Edmonton, and the Oilers and Eskimo organizations, for accepting Joey. As he puts it, “Kevin (Lowe), Paul (Coffey) and Mark (Messier) accepted him (Joey), and then he was accepted by others.”
Wayne notes that he has “seen it all” in regard to how society has treated people with developmental challenges over the years—from the days when those with disabilities were “hidden away” to the more open and welcoming attitudes of today. He continues to support Joey and others like him.
Joey’s family, in turn, credits Wayne Gretzky with helping to improve their lives. It is known that when Sophie Moss was trying to raise her family on her own, after Lloyd passed on,
Wayne hired her to look after his fan mail. Suggesting Joey for the job in the Oilers locker room was another of Gretzky’s acts of kindness. Stephen Moss avows that Wayne “improved Joey’s lifestyle by 1000%” with that single action. Stephen also mentions Lyle Kulchisky, (former Edmonton Oilers Equipment Manager; known as “Sparky”), Barry Stafford (former Oilers Head Equipment Manager), and Dwayne Mandrusiak (Edmonton Eskimos Equipment Manager) as Joey’s important friends and mentors.
“Joey has opened so many doors for mentally-challenged kids.”
Spending time with Joey, one appreciates his cheerful nature. He was delighted about the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. In addition to sports, his joys include his family, watching movies, especially “007 (James Bond),” and eating hamburgers and French fries, “but not all the time.” His friend “Sparky,” whom Joey’s younger brother, Stephen, calls “a huge influence in Joey’s life,” taught Joey the importance of eating “good food, healthy food,” such as tuna, apples, grapes and oats.
When questioned, Joey calls Taylor Hall his current favourite hockey player, and all of the Eskimos, his favourite football players. The Eskimos football camp each year excites him.
Joey’s hero is his brother, Stephen, because “he helps me a lot.”
Joey is fond of helping people, and according to Stephen, seems to understand and appreciate his celebrity status.
Stephen, whose own young family and work take up a lot of his time, wishes he was retired, to be able to help Joey more. At age 51, Joey is slowing down a bit.
The Moss family is proud of, and a bit surprised at, all of the accolades and opportunities that have come Joey’s way. At the same time, he works hard, and earns the recognition. The Moss family, Wayne Gretzky, and Joey’s other friends will continue to support him in the future, as he affects and influences others. Joey will go forward with enthusiasm, as always.
Check out Joey’s Alberta Sports Hall of Fame induction on YouTube.