Vancouver-born forward Steve Moria arrived here in 1987, initially to play for just six months. But he fell in love with the British game and ended up enjoying an illustrious 25-year career. The first UK team he suited up for was Fife Flyers, but he is best remembered for his ten years with the all-conquering Cardiff Devils, where his number 19 shirt was eventually retired.
A swift skater and deft stickhandler, Moria was recruited in 1989 by John Lawless’s ambitious Devils, who were then in the second tier. He spearheaded their offence as they pipped Medway Bears to the Heineken League, Division One title, and 12 months later he was part of the Devils side that were crowned the league’s Premier Division champions. Steve was the league’s top goal scorer and was named their Player of the Year.
The ‘Mocat’ or simply ‘Mo’, as he was affectionately nicknamed, was one of the three imports that each team was allowed in those days and he scored hats-full of goals and points. In those two seasons with Cardiff alone, he racked up a phenomenal 455 points (219 goals) in only 70 games.
In all, he played 524 official games in the old Wales National Ice Rink between 1988 and 2001, scoring 1,290 points (629 goals and 661 assists). All the totals are Cardiff club records.
After four years topping the Devils’ scoring, he added coaching to his duties with a fresh team, Blackburn Hawks. This didn’t affect his scoring output as he recorded two career-high 200-point-plus seasons in Lancashire before returning south in the autumn of 1993 and pulling on a Swindon Wildcats jersey. There he repeated his Devils’ feats by winning Division One’s scoring race and being voted Player of the Year.
After only one season in Swindon, he returned to Cardiff and in his second year back with the Devils helped them to win the inaugural Superleague crown, followed a year later by the Play-Off trophy.
By this time he had earned himself a great reputation and in 1996 he was selected by GB coach Peter Woods to become part of the national team. He went on to be capped 49 times and was the leading scorer in the 2000 World Championship in Poland.
After six years in the Superleague – the final one with Nottingham Panthers – Moria took over as player-coach of Basingstoke Bison and was in charge during their first year in the Elite League.
He then moved to London, where he was top goal scorer with the Roger Black-owned London Racers before he dropped down to the English Premier League as player-coach of Slough Jets. He guided the Berkshire side to Play-off glory in 2007-08, a season that was also the first of his back-to-back Player of the Year awards when he led his team in scoring yet again.
For the start of the 2009-10 campaign he returned to take charge of the Bison, who had just dropped out of the Elite League. With his wealth of experience the wily centreman built a team from scratch and put the smiles back on the faces of the Bison faithful as they were competitive once more.
Right up to his last game at the age of 51, the fitness fanatic was winning face-offs, killing penalties, steadying the powerplay, working the corners, and buzzing the front of the net – and coaching. He never lost his scoring touch. In his last season (2011-12), he was runner-up in the club’s points scoring, with 66 (27 goals) in 56 games.
Players usually retire for one of three reasons – they’re injured, they can’t compete at a decent level, or they lose their love for the game. Moria’s reason? “Playing 50 games a year is hard,” he said. “If it was a 30-game schedule I could play for another five years, but I can’t sustain playing for 60 minutes anymore.”
Not that many spectators spotted him ‘slowing down’. When he was pointed out to new fans and asked how old they thought he was, they looked puzzled, unable to believe he was any older than the 20-somethings he was playing with.
Before coming to this country, Moria was selected to play in the NHL by New York Rangers and played two campaigns in their American Hockey League farm club. Prior to that, he enjoyed a successful spell in the NCAA with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks where he set more scoring marks.
‘Mocat’ was a finesse athlete who over his career showed himself to be totally professional on and off the ice. He played with passion and displayed immense dedication to the sport he loves, while scoring goals for fun. He is truly one of the all-time greats of British ice hockey’s modern era.
This is Moria’s fourth Hall of Fame honour. In 2011 he was inducted into the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks HOF, in honour of his leading the team in goals, assists and points in each of his three seasons, 1982-85. He had been named to their Sports Hall of Fame six years earlier. He is also in the Hockey Hall of Fame organised by the city of Fairbanks, Alaska.