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When Mike Moustakas steps to the plate in the bottom of an inning, it’ll often sound as if the home crowd is displeased with him. They’re not saying “Boooo,” they’re saying “Moooose.”
Now that he plays in Colorado, Moustakas is the second-most famous professional athlete nicknamed Moose after Avalanche right winger Mikko Rantanen.
For the hockey-loving Moustakas, that’s fine by him.
Moose 🤝 Moose
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) April 27, 2023
“I played hockey for a week when I was a kid and I remember I got checked into the boards and that was enough for me,” the 34-year-old said. “It’s funny because I ended up loving playing football.”
It would make sense if he grew up in an ice hockey hotbed like Minnesota, Wisconsin, New England or one of the places you’d likely expect to find a frozen pond. However, Moustakas was a product of Chatsworth, Cali. in Los Angeles County. He’d try his hand — and feet — at the Iceoplex in Simi Valley, the same place the L.A. Kings would train.
“I remember going to their practices and watching them practice,” the corner infielder shared. “I got to see Gretzky practice and watching those dudes fly on ice was insane to me. Then, the older I got, the more I appreciated what these guys are able to do on ice.”
For the first time as a big leaguer, Moustakas can actually enjoy hockey in the same town in which he plies his trade.
Drafted second overall in 2007 by the Royals out of Chatsworth High School, K.C. had not boasted an NHL team since 1976 when the Kansas City Scouts moved to Denver to become the original Colorado Rockies before moving to New Jersey and becoming the Devils in 1982.
He was later dealt at the 2018 trade deadline to the Brewers. The Milwaukee Admirals are an AHL club that joined the professional ranks in 1973 as part of the International Hockey League; yet, Milwaukee has never been part of the NHL.
In his last stop before the signing up for a season at Coors Field, Moustakas signed a four-year deal with the Reds ahead of the 2020 season and was released this past offseason. Though the Cincinnati Stingers had future Hall of Famer Mark Messier at age 18 and were a key part of the WHA before merging with the NHL, Cincinnati hasn’t had a top flight hockey team since 1979.
Finally, in his 13th year in the Majors, Denver is giving Moustakas his hockey fix.
“It’s been awesome. Just to be in a town with hockey and obviously other sports, it’s amazing to see the community rally behind sports teams,” Moustakas explained. “It’s like that in other places, but hockey out here seems amazing. It’s been fun to be able to be here for that.”
The grind of 162 games doesn’t allow for taking in many games on television, let alone in person, but he’s doing his best to keep tabs. Denver native and Avalanche superfan Kyle Freeland has been a sounding board in the clubhouse for discussing Avs’ highlights.
Moose (with a mace) may someday get a chance to meet the crosstown Moose (on skates), and if that happens, they’ll have something uniquely in common with the Stanley Cup winning Rantanen.
“It’s unbelievable,” Moustakas said of the Royals’ World Series parade in 2015. “We took some trucks throughout the city and there’s just a ton of people as you’re driving around, but it didn’t really hit me until we got on stage. You’d just look out and it’s just a sea of blue, as far as you could see. And it was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever had.”
The Avs need to win Game 7 against the Seattle Kraken on Sunday before they can even begin to think about winning the next three series to secure back-to-back Stanley Cups. Should they make another run, Moustakas will have two off-day opportunities at home to witness a game at Ball Arena: June 22, which was the date of Game 4 last year; and June 26, which was the date the Avalanche closed out their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A lot needs to happen before that. Even if it isn’t the right time this year, at least Moustakas will be in the right place for once.