Throwback Thursday: Andy Moog

Andy Moog's signature Bruins mask, made by Middleton, Mass. mask maker Dom Malerba of Pro's Choice (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Andy Moog’s signature Bruins mask, made by Middleton, Mass. mask maker Dom Malerba of Pro’s Choice (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Here’s another old gem I wrote for the New England Hockey Journal a decade+ ago, but the information former Bruins goalie Andy Moog relayed to me is still relevant in 2015. It was interesting hearing him talk about how in his day, goalie mistakes could be overcome with a prolific offense, but not so much anymore. It’s also great to read about how Rejean “Reggie” Lemelin was a mentor to him, helping Moog take his game to another level while he was with the Bruins.

This is why talk of trading Tuukka Rask is silly…even if you don’t like his cap hit, unless you are certain that one of Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre, Jeremy Smith or Daniel Vladar is going to give you that top-level game that Rask does, he’s not going anywhere. And- to point out that he’s never won the “big one” is disingenuous- the NHL has plenty of elite goalies who have not won Stanley Cups (say hey there, Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne)

When I was a kid growing up in the 80’s, I liked Moog during his Edmonton days, and it was a thrill for me at age 16 when he was traded to Boston after the 1988 Olympics. He was traded to the Dallas Stars in 1993 (along with Gord Murphy) for Jon Casey– not one of Harry Sinden’s better moves. Not that Moog could have stemmed the slide of the B’s into mediocrity in the mid-90’s, but it might have been an easier pill for the team to swallow in lieu of the revolving door of goalies until Byron Dafoe (briefly) stabilized the position from 1997-02.

Getting a chance to meet and talk to Moog on a professional level was a lot of fun for this old story in particular. He has since held NHL goaltending coach jobs and is now working in the Dallas-area media with Fox Sports Southwest during Dallas Stars home broadcasts. Enjoy the article.

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For nearly six seasons between 1988-1993, if you were in attendance at the Boston Garden and number 35, Andy Moog, was between the pipes for the Boston Bruins, you might have joined in the signature “Mooooooooooog!” cheers that resounded through the confines of the blessed old barn each time the Penticton, British Columbia native made a save for the Black and Gold.

For much of Moog’s career as a Boston Bruin, he shared the netminding duties with veteran Rejean Lemelin, and for a time, the two formed arguably the best goaltending tandem in the National Hockey League, a claim they backed up by winning the 1990 Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) who allow the fewest goals in the regular season. Moog appeared in 261 games as a Bruin, winning 136 and ranks second only to Gerry Cheevers in franchise history for playoff games played and victories, with 70 and 36 respectively.

Since his trade to the Dallas Stars on June 20, 1993, and subsequent retirement from the NHL in 1998 after one season with the Montreal Canadiens. Moog has stayed in the professional hockey business by serving as a goaltending consultant for the Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks, while also holding the position of Owner and President of the Fort Worth Brahmas of the Western Professional Hockey League.

Moog came to the Bruins on March 7, 1988 after leaving the Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers the previous summer for the Canadian Olympic Program and a better opportunity to start. Boston General Manager Harry Sinden traded Geoff Courtnall, who had scored 32 goals in 62 games with the Bruins that season, adding young goaltender Bill Ranford and a draft pick to seal the deal that brought the player considered to be the best outside of the NHL in Moog. Moog was 28-years old at the time of the trade and had grown tired of being the backup behind teammate Grant Fuhr in Edmonton.

“My leaving (the Oilers) was all about opportunity,” Moog told the New England Hockey Journal. “I felt that I could be a starter elsewhere, and after three championships in Edmonton, I believed that the time was right for me to become the player and leader I knew I could be. With the goaltending situation in Edmonton being what it was, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen for me there.”

The Moog acquisition caught a lot of people by surprise because it had been rumored that the Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Eddie Johnston were all but locked up in a deal to secure Moog’s rights to help get them into the postseason. In the end, the price Oiler GM Glen Sather wanted for the diminutive but skilled goaltender was too high and Johnston backed out, allowing Sinden and the Bruins to acquire the player they felt could be an outstanding presence in the Boston nets for a long time.

Although it took some time for Moog to firmly grasp the starters’ reins from Lemelin in Boston, the older and more experienced Lemelin added some longevity to Moog’s career while the two shared the goaltending duties for the Bruins. By serving as a mentor to the younger Moog, Lemelin imparted veteran wisdom and goaltending techniques that his teammate absorbed and used effectively throughout his career in Boston, Dallas and Montreal.

“When I arrived in Boston, I had yet to take my game to another level,” Moog said. “I was a goaltender who relied on my quickness and agility to get the job done, but I lacked the consistency in my game that I strived for. From watching Reggie (Lemelin) play, I learned a great deal of the strategy and technical side of goaltending. It wasn’t the kind of relationship where he was teaching me how to play the position, but I credit him with showing me how to play consistent hockey and perform at a higher level than when I first arrived in Boston.”

Moog and Lemelin were indeed a formidable duo in net that gave the Boston Bruins superb netminding at critical times from 1988-1992. While Moog spent much of Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 1988 as a spectator watching Lemelin steal games from the Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, he rebounded in spectacular fashion two years later while spearheading the Bruins’ charge to the finals, turning in stellar outings against the Hartford Whalers, Canadiens, and Washington Capitals. Although Moog’s Bruins came up short in both finals appearances against the Edmonton Oilers, it was the superb goaltending that got the team that far in both the 1988 and 1990 postseason campaigns.

Perhaps it was Moog’s tremendous individual performances against the longtime Boston nemesis, the Montreal Canadiens that won the hearts of so many of the Bruins faithful during his tenure. Although Moog had a history of playing well against the Canadiens before even coming to Boston, it was while he was wearing the Black and Gold that his most memorable moments against the Habs occurred.

“I was well-accustomed to hockey rivalries because of the Oilers-Flames wars I saw firsthand before my trade to Boston,” Moog said. “That Alberta rivalry we had while I was in Edmonton prepared me well for the pressure that you feel when you go into those kinds of games. One of the first things I heard about when I became a Bruin was how much the Boston teams had struggled against Montreal over the years. To be able to win several playoff series in Boston against the Canadiens was a great feeling because I knew how important it was for the Bruins fans to savor those moments that had been so long in the making.”

Moog also has the interesting perspective of seeing things from the other angle after he signed with the Canadiens as a free agent in the summer of 1997 and spent one season wearing the bleu, blanc, et rouge and going up against the Bruins in 3 games going 1-2 with a GAA of 2.53. Said Moog, “To experience the Boston-Montreal rivalry from both sides was a very enriching experience for me. Having the chance to play in two tremendous hockey cities with the kinds of passionate and knowledgeable fans there is definitely something I cherish, especially now when I reflect back upon my career and realize how fortunate I was to play for such quality teams.”

In the 1990, 1991 and 1992 postseasons, Moog shut down the high-powered Canadiens’ offense, backstopping the Bruins to victories in five, seven and four games in their best-of-seven series. According to him, the 1990 playoff drive was the most memorable of his career. “We had put it all together,” Moog said of that magical night that the Bruins closed out the Habs on home ice with a late Glen Wesley goal and Cam Neely empty-netter in Game 5 of the Adams Division Final. “We had a talented offense, and tremendous defense. We won the Jennings Trophy and Ray Bourque was arguably the best player in the league. We were a great team and we should have gone all the way. You know, the one true regret I had about my career was not winning that final series in 1990. I wanted nothing more than to help bring the Stanley Cup to the people of Boston and Bruins fans everywhere.”

Moog’s 1990 playoff run earned him the starting nod in Boston for the next three seasons until his draft day trade to Dallas for Jon Casey in 1993. For Moog, the trade came as a bit of a surprise, but he understands why the Bruins made the deal. “Harry (Sinden) had a couple of reasons for being mad at me,” said Moog. “For one, I was the (NHLPA) player rep for the Bruins, but another reason for his displeasure was my performance in the 1993 playoffs.”

Moog’s struggles in the 1993 postseason were magnified because at the other end of the ice, his opponent in goal was none other than Grant Fuhr, the player whose shadow he sought to get out from in Edmonton six years before. Despite Boston’s ability to generate offense, Buffalo was able to score almost at will. Brad May’s overtime goal in Game Four, when he beat both Bourque and Moog to knock the Bruins out of the playoffs, was the low point of Moog’s career in Boston, and on June 20, Sinden sent him packing to Dallas, where he would stay until the end of the 1996-97 season before signing with Montreal for his 18th NHL campaign. When Moog finally called it quits, he was able to step back and take a good look at what separated the goaltending position in the 80’s, a time when scoring was up, as opposed to 1998, where goaltending dominance had become a major issue in the NHL.

“If there was one thing that truly affected goalies back in the 80’s when I first started playing, it was the fact that you were allowed to make a mistake because the offense was there to bail you out,” Moog said. “Today, goalies can’t make the same kind of mistakes because scoring is down all over the league. Right now, the offense is just not there, so when you can sustain a high level of performance stopping pucks, you deserve the accolades that come with it.”

Since retirement, Moog has remained close to the game by working with NHL netminders as a goaltending consultant, while also serving as the Owner and President of the WPHL’s Fort Worth Brahmas franchise. Although life is much different for him now than it was when he was a player, in the four seasons since Moog last put the pads on in Montreal, he has come to appreciate his hockey playing experiences more than he ever thought he would. For him, knowing that he was able to emerge as the starter in Boston and play the game at such a high level while wearing the spoked B is to this day, an honor.

“In hindsight, the most enjoyable part of playing for the Bruins was how the fans treated me,” said Moog. “The people of Boston and Bruins fans everywhere as well as my teammates over the years- they all combined to make my time there a special one. I only hope that the fans appreciated what I was able to do on the ice as much as I appreciated the opportunity to be a Boston Bruin. It was a great ride.”

During his relatively short time in Boston, Moog established himself as one of the top money goaltenders in the game, and despite never having backstopped his Bruins teams to the ultimate prize in two finals and two semi-finals appearances over his five full seasons and one partial campaign, Andy Moog remains to this day, one of the most beloved figures in recent Boston Bruins history.

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Andy Moog's 1990 Stanley Cup Final series home jersey (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Andy Moog’s 1990 Stanley Cup Final series home jersey (Kirk Luedeke photo)