Moore looks to build on his “Rudy of hockey” moment

By Richard Murray

Kevin Moore - University of Massachusetts

Photo: Former UMass goaltender Kevin Moore is taking a stab at the pro game after completing his college career last spring (courtesy of Dennis Pause via Kevin Moore)

Former University of Massachusetts’ goaltender Kevin Moore overcame a lot of adversity to remain a member of the Massachusetts hockey team, and he earned the title “Rudy of hockey” after an inspirational appearance in the Senior Night finale for the Minutemen.  Moore will also have an opportunity that Rudy didn’t, which is making the professional level of his sport.

During UMass’ Senior Night, 5-1 win over Merrimack last season the chant of “Rudy” buzzed through the Mullins Center for Moore.

“When you really think about it, it is such a great story,” Moore said about Rudy’s story. “Rudy was such an inspiration to so many people, how can you not enjoy it [when you are compared to him]. I had already processed the whole Rudy thing because I saw the hash-tags on Twitter, so once I heard the fans chanting it I was flattered.”

Moore did not get thrown in the spotlight by any of his teammates or friends originally. His friends and family helped follow up a movement started by a few girls, including Amy Sonders, who sits behind the UMass bench every game. They call themselves “The Bench Crew.”

The girls started a #FreeMoore campaign on Twitter and at the games, which blew up. Professional hockey players were tweeting about it during the week leading up to the Senior Night game.  This movement also led to Moore being compared to Rudy on Twitter, especially by his teammates.

“I told my friends, “The Bench Crew”, that I wanted to make a sign that said “PUT.IN.MOORE. #FreeMoore,” and I wanted to put it up against the glass so that the coaches and players could see it,” Sonders said. “I never once thought it would get to be as big as it did; I honestly thought it would just stay within my group of friends.”

Moore’s teammates recognized his comparisons to Rudy a lot earlier in the season, though.

“I guess my teammates kind of foreshadowed everything because my gag gift at the Christmas party was a DVD of Rudy, but with my face pasted over Rudy's, and they changed the title to Mooresy,” Moore said. 

UMass took a 4-1 lead at the Senior Night game with an empty net goal but Moore was still on the bench. The game was very important to the Minutemen because a win clinched a playoff berth into the Hockey East playoffs, but starting goalie Kevin Boyle skated off to the bench and tried to get UMass coach (now former coach) Don “Toot” Cahoon to put in Moore.

“I wanted coach to put [Moore] in so he could have that, and I tried to get coach to put him in,” said Boyle, after UMass scored its first empty net goal. “Coach sort of waived me off though.”

UMass quickly made it 5-1, though, which gave Moore the opportunity to get into the game.

“I started to think I wasn’t going to get in, but oh well we just clinched the playoffs, “Moore said. “When we scored again, though, Toot told me to stretch out, and he put me in the next whistle. It was hard to get to the net because Michael Marcou gave me a huge hug and Boyle then gave me a hug. When I got onto the ice everything kind of just went silent.”

When Moore entered the ice there was a long and loud ovation for him after fans had been trying to get him in the entire game. Moore even recalled fans yelling at the coaches to put him in, which he thought was pretty amusing. 

“When he got on the ice was the loudest I have ever heard [the Mullins Center], which was a very cool feeling,” Boyle said.

Moore came to UMass for the spring semester of the 2009 season on a try-out basis when the Minutemen lost their third string goalie.  The following season Moore was demoted to fourth string as UMass brought in a freshman, Randy Wolcott. Moore was told he could be cut at anytime. 

“I was motivated that they wanted to replace me, so the whole summer before my goal was to beat out Randy,” Moore said. “My mind set was that I was going to take him down.  Randy and I are really good friends now, though, so it is funny how that developed.”

Moore did just that during the 2009-10 season with the Minutemen. It was through his hard work that he set himself apart from Wolcott to remain with UMass. Moore volunteered to do extra workouts that he wasn’t required to do with the players who were red-shirted.

“Moore works so hard it would be impossible to cut a kid like that because of his demeanor, his attitude, and just again how hard he works,” former UMass goalie coach Mike Buckley said.

Moore would also set up extra practice sessions with players who were red-shirted or scratched the weekend before, and he ran his own practice with them.  What the coaches also noticed was how he was always the first player on the ice for practice, how he was the last player off, and often staying an hour after practice to keep working.

“I have coached for a long time, and I haven’t known anybody who has worked harder than Kevin Moore,” former UMass assistant coach Dennis Gendron said. “As a human being he is absolutely exceptional. As a teammate he knew it was unlikely he was going to play very much, but you never would have known it by [the] virtue of his habits on and off the ice.”

Following the season it was not Moore who was cut from the program but rather Wolcott. Moore entered the 2010-11 season as the third goalie behind incoming freshmen Jeff Teglia and starter Paul Dainton.

“It was just a question of who was more dependable, and Kevin was a kid who would put in endless hours to help the team do whatever they were doing,” said Cahoon, in an interview during the 2010-11 season. “If I had extra shooters come to the rink, or needed a pre-practice goalie, or goalie after practice, I didn’t even have to ask him because he was always there.”

Moore’s efforts and attitude on and off the ice made him one of the most respected teammates on the UMass hockey team. Despite rarely touching the ice, many of his teammates and coaches considered him to be a leader on the UMass team. 

“For someone to have been in his situation, and to be the leader he was (and is) is truly remarkable,” said Dainton, who is a former UMass captain. “He was vocal when he needed to be, and he always said the right things.”

Moore’s leadership skills became a very important part for the 2011-12 UMass team because they brought in two new freshmen goalies last season, Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz, in addition to sophomore Jeff Teglia. Moore once again became the fourth string goalie for UMass, but he understood that he could still be an important leader to his teammates especially the younger goalies.

“He was a great leader, and not only for [the goalies] but also for the team in general,” Boyle said. “For me personally it was more of a thing how he would always calm my nerves down, or he would say something to me to get me ready for the game.”

Although UMass used the three younger goalies pretty evenly in the regular season, Boyle started both Hockey East playoff games. Having Moore to help him all season made the transition to not only college hockey but also college in general an easy transition.

“We worked with the same goalie coach growing up, so I had known him since I was 12,” Boyle said. “Having Kevin there was kind of like having another older brother.”

Now graduated from college with academic honors, Moore is not done trying to reach his dream of playing professional hockey. He has a PTO (professional try-out) agreement that begins on October 15th with the Danbury Whalers in the Federal Hockey League. Danbury has an ECHL affiliate with the Trenton Titans, who are affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers.

“From a life stand point, Danbury is great because it is only two hours from home and UMass,” Moore said. “I just want to continue my hockey career, and be in a situation where I can get game experience.”

Moore’s former teammates also support the idea of him trying to play at the professional level.

“[Moore] is a very capable goaltender, and he deserves the opportunity to show his skill,” Dainton said. “I’m excited to see how it goes for him.”

It doesn’t end with Moore’s teammates; his former coaches from UMass also want to see him succeed at the professional level. 

“I tell people all the time that your dreams are your dreams, and that they belong to you,” Gendron said. “What I say to Kevin Moore is why not? If that is what you want to do, go after it!”

There have been many great stories in sports history about players coming out of nowhere and having successful careers. Moore has taken inspiration from players like goalie Tim Thomas, who bounced around Europe for years before he got his shot, or Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who was a back-up quarterback his entire college football career.

“Thomas battles and understands that goaltending is about stopping the puck,” Moore said. “I used to watch videos of him taking control of moments and seizing opportunities.”

If Moore is to make his dreams come true, it will happen because of the heart and determination that he has put into the game of hockey.

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