I first met Mark Moore in December 1999, while doing a story for the Globe and Mail in my role as a member of the Globe’s sports department. At the time he was a senior defenceman at Harvard, and the oldest of three brothers all playing on the same team. Steve was a rugged, high-scoring junior forward and Dominic was a highly touted rookie with quick feet and soft hands. The angle for the feature was initially quite simple: three brothers from what seemed an ordinary Ontario family all playing hockey for Harvard. Amazing. But in the course of doing the piece, the background became even more remarkable. Their mother had suffered a near fatal brain tumour when Mark was just twelve, and the recovery was long and difficult. Faced with adversity, Mark responded by only increasing his focus on his two main occupations- school and hockey. His example of hard work, dedication and perseverance set the tone for his brothers, and their passion for hockey carried over into the rest of their lives, leading to incredible results.
That focus and devotion to hockey was no accident. The game of hockey in our country is indeed best described as a passion: a collective ritual that brings together a wide and diverse land by way of a common pursuit. The game, at its best, is played with passion, one almost unmatched in any other sport.
And courage. Climbing over the boards means competing in a confined place, on a slippery surface, against big bodies moving fast. You go as hard as you can, take a brief rest, and go hard again. It’s fast, and unrelenting, and Canadians love it.
But lost in the passion – lost in any passion, quite often – can be the importance of reflection. The game is played and followed with our hearts, and requires a deep commitment. Missing sometimes is perspective, or sober second thought.
For Mark Moore, the passion for hockey took him on a journey from shinny on Ontario ponds as a kid, to the sport’s leading high school- Toronto St. Mike’s, to the prestigious Crimson of Harvard University. He was drafted by the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins, signed a contract with them, and embarked on a career in professional hockey. On his journey he saw the game in all its forms -- from small-town children’s leagues, to junior and college in the big city, to NHL training camps, to stops at different places in the minor leagues. He even had a taste of international hockey at training camp for the Canadian National Team, and in Europe studying under a renowned coach from Russia. There have been both highs and lows. He’s had the pleasure of skating with his hero Mario Lemieux, of reaching the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Final, and of seeing his youngest brother Dominic thrive as a rising star with the New York Rangers. He’s also seen his own career being bogged down by injuries and eventually halted by post-concussion syndrome in just his third season. He also saw his brother Steve become embroiled in one of the most notorious moments in the sport’s history: Vancouver Canucks’ forward Todd Bertuzzi’s on ice attack on his brother Steve, then enjoying a promising rookie season with the Colorado Avalanche. Anyone with a bank of experience like those I’ve mentioned would be worth listening to for their reflections on the game.
But there is another side to Mark which makes this contribution doubly compelling: He may just be the smartest hockey player ever to lace on skates. If he’d never touched a hockey stick he would still have fit in just fine at Harvard. Mark scored a near-perfect 1590 out of 1600 on the US college board’s feared Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). With a knack for analysis and problem solving, he graduated from Harvard’s Department of Mathematics, an intense program that only hands out around thirty degrees per year. His off-ice exploits often leave even brothers Steve and Dominic shaking their heads. While at Harvard Mark fractured the wrist on his writing hand, putting him in danger of falling months behind at school. Mark soon found he could write with his other hand, as long as he wrote everything backwards, which he did with his professors’ blessing. The teaching fellows deciphered and graded his assignments with the aid of a mirror.
Since the Harvard days, I have continued to follow the progress of the Moores behind the scenes and sometimes in print, as Steve and Dominic went on to success in the NHL, and Mark has battled and still battles against the post-concussion syndrome which halted his career. Once again, I find Mark responding to adversity in constructive and amazing ways. In Saving the Game, Mark takes the sport he has lived and loved so dearly, and reflects its strengths and flaws in the mirror, for all to assess. He brings a mathematical rigour to the pursuit of understanding and the search for solutions, yet one driven by a deep-seated and unquestionable devotion and passion for the game, bolstered by triumphs and tested by disappointments.
The book itself is divided into four sections (First Period, Second Period, Third Period and Overtime) that each effectively explore important aspects of the game. Topics covered range from factors behind the NHL’s lockout and the impact of its new collective bargaining agreement, to grasping nuances of recent rule changes and other proposals, to the need to strengthen the health and safety of those trying to weave magic on the ice. Saving the Game is the story of the incomparable sport of hockey, its greatest challenges, the collective efforts that have begun to address them, and a number of innovative ideas to help hockey reach new and greater heights.
From the time I first met Mark Moore while he was playing for Harvard, I quickly realized he was not your average hockey player. From the first page of Saving the Game I am sure you will quickly find it is not your average hockey book.
Globe & Mail