Remembering Mike Moffat at the ’82 World Juniors

Moffat _ arriving Bruins

The World Junior Hockey Championships have become a staple for millions of Canadian hockey fans during the holiday season, as we watch Canada’s best young players battle for gold.

Things were much different in 1982, when Canada iced its first true national junior team and a goaltender from Kingston backstopped Canada to a gold medal.  Prior to 1982, the Memorial Cup champions bolstered by a few additional players had represented Canada at the tournament.

Mike Moffat, from Cambridge, ON,  was a 19 year old goaltender for the OHL’s Kingston Canadians when he made the national team, sharing the goaltending duties with Frank Caprice of the London Knights.

It was Moffat who played the crucial games; he got the start against the Soviet Union in a Boxing Day game in Winnipeg that was televised nationally on CTV.  Both teams were undefeated, but Canada embarrassed the Soviets 7-0 and Moffat got the shutout.

The gold medal game saw Canada play Czechoslovakia in Rochester, Minnesota, there was no TV coverage of the final and it was only heard on CBC radio.  Canada had won its first six games; the Czechs were 5-and-1.

With Moffat back in goal, Canada trailed 2-1 after forty minutes,  General Manager Sherry Bassin went into the Canadian dressing room during the second intermission waving a gold medal he had borrowed, telling them, “If you don’t win the third period, you will only be able to tell people you were 20 minutes away from being world champions.”

Canada scored two quick goals to take the lead in the third, Czechoslovakia tied it and it ended 3-3, giving Canada the gold.

Kingston’s Scott Arniel was one of the offensive stars of the tournament for Canada,  scoring 5 goals and collecting 11 points over the seven games, tying for third in team scoring.  Arniel split the 81-82 season between the Cornwall Royals and Winnipeg Jets.

As the Canadian players lined up for the national anthem to celebrate the gold medal win, the anthem never played.  So the players sang O’ Canada a cappella, in what has now become a tradition when Canada wins the tournament.

Moffat was unbeaten in 4 games with a 1.75 goals against average.  He was named to the tournament all-star team and chosen as the outstanding goaltender,   ahead of the USA’s John Vanbeisbrouck,  who went on to be an NHL star.  Within a couple days, Moffat was back in Kingston.

Every player on that Canadian team would go on to play in the NHL.  When Kingston was eliminated from the playoffs;  Moffat was called up by the Boston Bruins (he was a 7th round pick of the Bruins in the 1980 NHL draft) and played two of the final regular season games.   When the playoffs began,  to his surprise Moffat was named the starting goaltender by Bruins coach Gerry Cheevers.  Leaving veteran Rogie Vachon, in his 16th and final NHL season, watching the rookie and Marco Baron  – who had played 44 games for the Bruins that season – on the bench.

Moffat led the Bruins to 4-game sweep over Buffalo in the first round and was the talk of the hockey world.  In the next round, Boston went seven games against Quebec, Moffat was outstanding but the Bruins lost game seven 2-1.

It appeared Moffat had earned the right to be the Bruins goalie of the future, but that summer Boston acquired veteran Pete Peeters from Philadelphia and he would win the Vezina trophy the next season.   Moffat was never able to win back the Bruins job, played just 19 games in Boston over three seasons and was gone from the NHL by age 22.

He later confessed he found being an NHL goaltender very stressful; suffering through terrible pre-game nerves, chronic headaches and insomnia.

He gave up on hockey, returned to school at Wilfred Laurier University and ultimately ended up back in Kingston in the late 80’s , where he worked for several years at the local Rona store and played forward in a Kingston men’s hockey league.

Now 53, he lives in Toronto, still plays pickup hockey and works as an outside sale rep for Rona Lumber Supply.

But, there was a time three decades ago, when Mike Moffat was briefly the hottest goaltender in hockey.

 

 

 

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Big Expectations for Dal Colle

MCup photo _ AB4_7558_resized

photo by Aaron Bell

Michael Dal  Colle woke up New Year’s day to a new beginning after sleep walking through the first half of the OHL season in Oshawa.   If he doesn’t know it already,  #71  will find out quickly he is Kingston’s new white knight;   joining a franchise with more playoff baggage than terminal one at Pearson International airport over the holidays.

Dal Colle knows he is here for one reason,  to lead the Frontenacs to an extended playoff run and erase almost 20 years of futility in KTown.   He has the pedigree to do it,  a first round pick of the NY Islanders (5th overall in the 2014 NHL draft,  right behind Sam Bennett) , he led Oshawa to the Memorial Cup last spring and I was in Quebec City to witness part of it.

Dal Colle is an elite player,  a difference maker,   the kind of player you need to win in the post-season.

In last year’s OHL playoffs he had 31 points.

To put that in perspective,  it  would have put him among the Frontenacs top ten scorers during the entire 68 game regular season.

But he hasn’t been that player this season.

After back to back  39 and 42 goal seasons, Dal Colle has looked very ordinary,  scoring just 8 goals for a Generals team that is a shadow of last year’s Memorial Cup team.   The New York Islanders are likely more thrilled with this move than Kingston is, having spent a high first round pick to get a player who has really struggled this season when he should be one of the league’s leading scorers.

The Frontenacs are banking on a change in scenery and new linemates will help Dal Colle regain his previous form,  after being cut for the second straight year by Canada’s World Junior team.

As a rental player he didn’t come cheap.

Kingston gives up their first round pick in 2015, Robbie Burt,  along with two second round picks and two third round picks.  Back in November the Fronts acquired 19 year old defenceman Stephen Desrochers from Oshawa, giving them 2 key pieces from a Memorial Cup winning team,  but they also parted with a lot of their future;  10 draft picks ( two are conditional) to get two final year players.

This is the second straight year Kingston GM Doug Gilmour has traded away his first round draft pick.  Robbie Burt could be an elite player in 2 or 3 years and Dal  Colle will be a distant memory.

Dealing your first round pick every year likely doesn’t sit well with your scouting staff and is no recipe for long term success.  Last year they traded their top pick, defenceman Reagan O’Grady, to Sudbury.  And of course who can forget in 2011 top pick Max Domi refused to come to Kingston and was traded to London.  But in his 8th year in Kingston and with zero playoff series wins to show for it,   for Dougie G the future is right now.

Ask  Blue Jays fans whether they were upset when Toronto  traded away most of its top prospects  last summer ,  in return for a memorable playoff run after 20 plus years of being a mediocre .500 team.

It’s long overdue for Kingston to be bold and to make a run.

They already have four elite players in their lineup; Peressini,   Crouse, Watson and McKeown.  Add Dal Colle to the mix and now there are no excuses for not going deep in the playoffs this spring.

The Fronts are saddled with the baggage that comes from their last playoff win dating back to after the ice storm in ’98.

They have mortgaged the future and the time is now.

Mr. Dal Colle,  welcome to Kingston,  now just win us a friggin’ playoff series.