Philadelphia, PA – There will likely be a moment during the forthcoming NHL season when New York Rangers forward Dominic Moore will find himself hunched over, gliding along the ice, trying to catch his breath after a fast-paced and physical shift.
It will still pale in comparison to what the veteran had to endure off the ice over the last year.
Moore has not suited up for an NHL contest since Game 3 of the San Jose Sharks' opening-round playoff series with the St. Louis Blues on April 16, 2012. He missed the final two contests of that series as the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs.
Less than two months later, Moore revealed why he was away from the team. His wife Katie had been diagnosed with a rare liver cancer.
On Jan. 7, Katie Moore passed away at the age of 32.
Just 12 days later, the NHL began its lockout-shortened season, but Dominic Moore would not take part. The New York Rangers had interest in signing Moore, who was a third-round draft choice out of Harvard by the Blueshirts in 2000, but he said that the timing just wasn't right.
"I think everything kind of came to a head unfortunately at an inopportune time back in January," Moore said during a conference call on Wednesday. "It was a very difficult decision to not play, but at the same time it was definitely the right decision. The last few months after that gave me a chance to regroup and clear my head."
When the Rangers came calling a second time, Moore was in a better position to say yes. He agreed to terms on a contract with New York on July 5.
Moore has been a part of nine different NHL teams -- building a network of support that no doubt was needed during recent events -- but the Rangers were the first. He made his debut in the league with five games in 2003-04, then logged nine goals and 18 points in 82 contests the following season.
He was dealt to Pittsburgh on July 19, 2006 in a three-team deal, but said the Rangers were his first choice when he decided to resume his playing career.
"I couldn't be more excited. Obviously, I have great memories from over the years playing at Madison Square Garden, both as a Ranger and as a visiting player," the Ontario-born Moore said. "It's always been one of my favorite places to play, if not the favorite. It's just the atmosphere. There's something special about MSG that everyone knows. I can't wait to be back and put that Rangers jersey back on."
But it will be hard, both physically and mentally.
Moore's body should be ready. He said watching the playoffs this past spring was a big motivator and he spent his time away from the game staying in shape. The Boston resident even did some cross training with the Harvard tennis team.
Moore also spent his time getting the Katie Moore Foundation up and running. According to the foundation's website, katiemoore.org, it "is dedicated to helping patients and families with rare cancers through research, advocacy and community."
The foundation's motto is "One Day at a Time." That is also how Moore is now approaching life, an adage that helped him decide if he was going to return to the NHL or not.
"I didn't try and get ahead of myself. If there's one thing this process taught me, it's take everything one day at a time. That's what I've been doing in general, just living one day at a time and not worrying about what's going to happen too far down the road, what opportunities may or may not present themselves. That's been good for me, to kind of just focus on the things I control and my day-to-day routine," he said.
Moore isn't sure what to expect in his return, nothing he hasn't had this kind of absence from hockey since he was 2 years old. But he thinks the Rangers have the makings of being a great team and that the roster fits well with the kind of system new head coach Alain Vigneault will bring to the club.
So the first time Moore blocks a shot, takes a hit or fires the puck on net, he will be in the trenches of new battle. It is one far different from what he has gone through over the past year alongside his wife, one he still can't fully explain in words.
"Obviously in a way, the ups and downs throughout the course of dealing with the disease and what we went through, it's a lot to try and describe in one simple answer," Moore said.
So, yes, there will be times during the upcoming season when Moore will need an extra lift, something a bit more than his teammates and the Madison Square Garden fans can give.
It's then he will need Katie.
"The one thing is I'm grateful for the time we had," he said, "and in a way those months were the most special months we had with each other that anyone could possibly ask for despite it being the most difficult and painful months that anyone could possibly expect or deal with."