Former Axemen Moyer’s Hockey Journey
Russ Moyer’s incredible hockey journey
By Joey Butkevich
Wednesday, May 26, 2010This week, Baytoday sat down to talk with North Bay’s Russ Moyer, and his journey throughout the hockey ranks. Since 2003-04, Moyer has been travelling the world, and making a living from a game he loves and has played since he can remember. The former North Bay Athletic (Blades) graduate, has had a successful professional career as a mobile defenceman, both in North America and overseas.
Moyer has recently returned from Denmark, where he played for Aalborg Hockey team in the Denmark’s top league. The smooth skating defenceman had a terrific year – his first overseas; finishing with 4 goals, 20 assists for 24 points in 32 games. Russ notes that the calibre of hockey in Denmark was really good, and was able to help his team make a run to the league finals. There was one difference Moyer recalls from his recent stay in Denmark, stating that the Danish culture was definitely a surprise for both him and his girlfriend Patti.
“The culture and way of life were a real eye opener, they are very health crazed. Fifty percent of the people ride their bikes to and from work,” said Moyer.
Prior to heading overseas, the 28-year-old had stint in the Central Hockey League (CHL), playing for the Odessa Jackalopes. The league All-star certainly turned heads with his eye-popping numbers, where he tallied 12 goals, and 40 assists for 52 points, in 64 games. The opportunity to play in a climate not normally conducive to Hockey was something a little different for the former North Bayite. As Moyer notes, the hot climate and great golfing opportunities ultimately made the Texas hockey centre, a great place to play hockey.
Prior to a brief stint in the CHL, and most recently the Danish Super league, Moyer applied his trade in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Grand Rapid Griffins, and Muskegon Lumberjacks of the IHL. The 6’0”, 190 pound defenceman says the adjustment to the AHL was much easier than he anticipated; as players were much more accountable at both ends of the ice, and positioning was the biggest difference from the lower Minor Pro’s.
“To tell you the truth, they were the easiest games of my life,” he admitted reflecting on his short time in the league one step below the NHL.
“Everyone was just so positionally sound, and knew exactly where to be when I had the puck.”
Prior to playing in the CIS for the Acadia Axeman and Minor Pro, Moyer was under the tutelage of the legendary Brian Kilrea for the Ottawa 67’s. Russ says playing for ‘Killer’ was real fun, and the legendary junior hockey coach made all his players accountable for their actions both on and off the ice. The biggest memory Moyer has of Kilrea, was that he treated his players like “Men” and gave the players freedom to make their own decisions.
That level of respect along with the clubs on-ice success allowed Moyer and his teammates to become a very tight group.
Through his tenure with the 67’s, Moyer was able to play amongst many talented players en route to playing in the 2001 Memorial Cup in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Moyer describes himself as an “all around defenceman,” responsible at both ends of the ice. One stat that proves that is how he and his defence partner failed to give up a goal in the first 21 games of the season.
The one time member of the Acadia Axeman, Moyer see’s the CIS as very underrated league in terms of the on-ice product. The former Axeman feels North Bay hockey fans need to give the OUA a chance to succeed. He believes it’s the best thing to come along since the OHL left North Bay following the 2000-01 season.
“Personally, it’s a significant step up from Major Junior. Going from playing against 16 and 17 year olds, to now you have to adjust to playing against players who are 25 and 26 years old, it’s a major jump,” said Moyer.
Like any players playing sports, Moyer has had role models both on and off the ice. On the ice, Russ see’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Duncan Keith as a huge role model’s for himself. And one look at the youngest Moyer on the ice, you can surely see the similarities in their games. Like Lidstrom and Keith, Moyer offers a non-flashy- yet, quite effective game based on speed, vision and positioning.
“Lidstrom is so classy and doesn’t have to be physical, because he out thinks everybody. Whereas, Keith and the way he skates, he has an extra step that allows him to get back to the puck,” says Moyer.
Off the ice, Moyer is quick to point to Bruce Cazabon as an individual who was pivotal in making Russ Moyer the player he is today. Moyer has great respect for his former Pee Wee ‘AAA’ Coach, who helped him take the next step in becoming drafted by Kilrea and the 67’s.
“I have great respect for Bruce Cazabon, he was pivotal in my development and instilling a great work ethic in me. Having him with the PeeWee’s again is the greatest thing for them (players), and minor hockey”, states Moyer.
Russ Moyer is definitely an individual that kids in North Bay can look up to, he is not 6’5 and does not weigh 230ilbs, but he lacks in size he makes up for in hockey sense.
Moyer offered these words of wisdom for all those players within our minor hockey system.
“It’s important to realize that it is a team game! Everyone wants to be a dangler, but why not expanded your game to not just be one dimensional, because every team only has one or two danglers,” he said.
“It’s important to listen to your coaches – block temptations and stay on the same page as your team,” adds Moyer.
Although he’s not making a seven-figure salary, driving flashy cars, or on the cover of magazines, Moyer has made a living playing Canada’s favourite game – the game that we all played growing up on neighbourhood rinks.
Russ Moyer is a prime example of what can happen if you work to get ahead of your competition, play within yourself and continue to follow your dreams. Moyer is living his dream of playing hockey for a living, while enabling himself to see what the world has to offer.
A Champion at every level, and a local success story.