During a TV timeout in Arizona this past season, Dominic Moore was doing what he usually does. He was skating around near center ice keeping himself loose. It was then that he had a not-so-chance encounter with Max Domi of the Coyotes.
“He skated by me and he kind of whispered and said, ‘Hey, can I get an invite to that ping-pong thing?’ ”
“That ping-pong thing,” is something called Smashfest, a charity event Moore founded in 2012 and organizes every year, which brings together 25 NHL players in what has evolved into a successful and unique fundraiser. Alas, Domi will not be able to attend the sixth annual event Thursday night in Toronto because his father, former NHL enforcer Tie, is getting married this weekend. But since Moore established the event, recruiting players to participate has become much easier. He said players have even put in their requests prior to taking a draw against him in the middle of a game.
There are a couple of reasons for that. First, table tennis is a huge part of the culture of being a hockey player. Every NHL team has a table and between games, it serves as an outlet for their competitive instincts. Second, the event supports two great causes – research into rare cancers, and concussions. In fact, Moore said proceeds from the event will go to the Broad (pronounced BRODE) Institute, a Harvard-MIT affiliated research lab in Boston. Moore is helping to establish and fund a tissue database for rare cancers. Moore said rare cancers make up one in every four cases of cancer, but rarely receive the same attention more conventional cancers receive because there are so many different kinds and so few cases of each.
Moore does have an emotional investment in this project. His wife, Katie, died in 2013 of a rare form of liver cancer. Moore said the goal of the Broad Institute is to collect as many tissue samples from rare cancer patients as it can, then use those tissue samples to explore possible treatments.
“They can basically recreate cancer tissue in the lab and grow in the lab and stay as live cancer tissue, which is just not done anywhere else,” Moore told THN.com. “And they’re able to test things on it and try to figure out different therapies in the lab. And not only that, once they’ve been able to do all that, they’re going to share what they’ve discovered with anyone.”
Smashfest has raised more than $500,000 for the two charities in its first five years and there are plans to possibly hold events in other NHL cities in the future. The event has a pro-am element where those who make a donation get to play with NHL players, but the main event is the tournament involving just the NHL players. Patrick Eaves of the Anaheim Ducks has won the event the past two years, defeating Alexandre Burrows of the Ottawa Senators in the final. In fact, last year Burrows had Eaves on the ropes, leading 2-0 in games with match point before Eaves stormed back to take the title.
— RealPatrickEaves (@Patrick_Eaves) July 18, 2017
“(Burrows) had been in the final the year before and this was his moment to win the title at match point,” Moore said. “He lost the match in an incredible comeback by Eaves and he was in a cab within minutes of the final. He was not a happy camper and that’s great. What do you expect? These guys want to win. It’s a charity even, but it’s not just a charity event, and that’s part of the fun of it.”
It should come as no surprise that these guys want to win at everything they do, including table tennis. Moore said Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes has been playing three times a week with a local table tennis club to prepare for the event. This past season when he was with the Boston Bruins, Moore was playing David Krejci, who had him at 20-12, before Moore came back to win.
“There was definitely a racquet thrown after that,” Moore said.
When he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, he would often play with Martin St-Louis and the two developed a strong friendship over the table.
“We’d play for an hour and he’d want to keep playing,” Moore said. “I would win seven games in a row and he’d keep playing until he won one and then he would quit. He’d go away from the table thinking he was the better player. That’s the way athletes are.”
Former NHLer Daniel Alfredsson is apparently the table tennis king of the NHL and his feats of ping-pong excellence are the stuff of legend. He has yet to take part in a Smashfest because he’s usually in Sweden at this time of year. But it would be interesting, Moore said, to see a game between him and two-time champion Eaves.
“He’s got incredible reflexes,” Moore said of Eaves. “He doesn’t play necessarily an aggressive game. He’s very consistent, maybe a bit more of a counter puncher. Burrows is more of an attacker. He’s more of a counter punch guy and he’ll block everything back until you miss.”
If you’re in the Toronto area Thursday night and you want to attend, the event begins at 7 p.m. at the Steamwhistle Brewery. Tickets are $250 to watch the event – which includes all you can eat and drink – and $1,000 to play in the pro-am. You can pay at the door or register at www.smashfest.ca.