In September of 2003 Mark Moore, at the age of twenty-six, was forced to call the Montreal Canadiens, the team he had idolized since childhood, and inform them that he was turning down an offer to tryout for their organization. He had no choice; the doctors wouldn't clear him to play, and after battling post-concussion syndrome for nearly a year, the truth was he couldn't. As he accustomed himself to his first year without playing hockey since the age of three, he was able to observe the game from the outside - as fans and others saw it- and he quickly noticed the cracks forming in the ice.
A few months later, on March 8, 2004, the ice shattered. Watching from home, Mark saw his younger brother Steve of the Colorado Avalanche attacked from behind by Vancouver’s Todd Bertuzzi, in one of the most vicious acts hockey fans had ever seen.
Mark could easily have turned away from the game at that point, after all that had happened, but instead he has written a soul-searching look at the game he loves. Taking on all of hockey’s most burning issues - from the “boring” style of play in recent years, to changes in the nature of the competition, to violence and injuries, to financial troubles - Mark brings us on a deep and fascinating investigation into the “mysteries” behind them.
How do we save the sport that is the spirit of a nation? Reviewing recent rule changes and initiatives, Saving the Game analyzes the significance of efforts underway to enhance the game, and proposes additional solutions to raise our game to the heights it belongs.
Finally, in Saving the Game, a professional hockey player takes us inside the heart of the sport and its issues with a passion that still burns for the ice. He pursues persistent problems and unravels elusive answers in the quest to make hockey as great as it once was and can be.
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 Steve, then enjoying a promising rookie season with the Colorado Avalanche. Anyone with a bank of experiences like those I’ve mentioned would be worth listening to for their reflections on the game.
Mark Moore is a former professional hockey player and a Harvard graduate. He is one of three brothers who all attended Harvard, playing hockey there together, and each going on to careers in professional hockey. Drafted and signed by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark played defence in the Penguins organization before being injured. He earned the nickname “the smartest hockey player ever” by posting a near perfect 1590 on his SAT, and going on to study with some of Harvard's leading intellectual luminaries: Stephen Jay Gould, Alan Dershowitz and Math professor Daniel Goroff (former science advisor to President Clinton). Mark lives in Toronto, and maintains his passion for the sport through a summer hockey school for children.close this panel
“From the moment I started reading Saving the Game, it was evident that this book is different from most hockey books out there. Like any good book, it is quite simply an engaging read. But it also tackles many of the issues of our sport comprehensively and with an uncommon depth of insight. It takes the challenges and changes in our game and addresses them with courage and a constructive approach. Do I always agree with him; certainly not, but the perspective of this former player is clearly something rare and special that sets this book apart. Even among player perspectives, the book is unique — it is written not out of the self-interest so often heard today from people in the hockey industry, but from the perspective of the game itself, and for the good of everyone touched by it.”
—Canadian hockey legend Paul Henderson from the Foreword
“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.”
—from the Introduction by Michael Grange