When you talk about legends of UK Ice Hockey, we all have players that come to mind. Most of the time they’re players you grew up watching in their prime, or it’s someone like Tony Hand who’s impact on the game in the UK is known across all leagues.
I have a few names who come to mind as legends. One being Clayton Norris, he wasn’t a legend on the ice but after I got clocked in the face by a puck when watching a game when I was still in primary school, Norris (who was in the penalty box at the time) quickly threw me the towel, and came straight over the next game to make sure I was okay.
Legends on the ice for me where the likes of Doug McEwen, Vezio Sacratini, Shannon Hope (I’m from Cardiff so that’s why there is a theme).
But one who I haven’t mentioned stuck out the most to me as a child learning to love the game of Ice Hockey.
In the 1986-87 season, the British hockey scene was graced with the presence of a hockey player in his mid 20’s, moving across the pond for the first time.
The Fife Flyers brought in former University of Alaska star Steve Moria, but I don’t think anyone at the time knew just how much of an impact their new signing would have on their season, and the UK hockey scene.
In just 22 games for the Flyers in that season, Moria dominated. Not in the point-per-game style dominance we get impressed with nowadays, I mean Moria posted 151 points in 22 games. That’s almost seven points a game.
It wasn’t a one off either, during his career in the UK across a number of teams he reached over 100 points in 7 seasons, and even topped 200 points in a further three seasons, and in 2012 and in his 50s, Moria finally hung up the skates as one of the greatest players to have ever played the game on these shores.
“Playing for the New Haven Nighthawks in the American League, the team GM called me into his office asking if I would be interested to play in Scotland.” Moria explained about his initial move.
“Initially I did not think it was the move for me but after more thought, I decided to try it out.”
After trying it out, it seemed to have worked. In a career in the UK that began with the Flyers in the 1986s, and ended with the Basingstoke Bison in 2012, he posted a staggering 2,564 league points in 1,026 games for 9 teams across six different leagues.
It’s safe to say that with his point totals and length of time playing the game in the UK, Moria established himself as one of the greatest players to have ever played the sport on these shores.
“I categorised my career in three stages. The early years where there were 3-4 imports. These were probably the most fun and most memorable for me.
“The superleague stage where the standard was extremely high. The quality of hockey was as good as any other countries top leagues.
“Finally the EPL which was not the highest standard of higher in the UK, but a strong second level.”
In 2016, Moria was inducted into the British Hockey Hall of Fame, and his number 19 jersey will never be worn again in Cardiff, who he spent 10 years playing for, and holds the franchise record in points with 922 in 373 games, also leading in goals with 462 and assists with 460, also sitting sixth all time in appearances.
“My best memories were when I was in Cardiff. We had a lot of success on the ice and off the ice there were so many exciting memories.
“It’s great to see the success achieved by the Devils. I try to see a couple of Devils games every season. The club have been fantastic inviting my family to watch the Devils play.
“I used to say as a hockey player it isn’t fun to watch a game. But, my mindset has changed and I really enjoy watching the Devils win hockey games. I wish I could travel with them when they play in Europe.”
During his long stay in the UK (where he still lives years after hanging up the skates), Moria even represented Team GB, captaining the side in the 1999-2000 Olympic Games Qualifiers, as well as the Division B World Championships.
In 41 games for the national team, Moria posted 30 points.
“This period of time could be the most exciting for many, many years in the UK.” Moria said when discussing Liam Kirk being drafted into the NHL, and Ben O’Connor’s initial move to the KHL and then Allsvenskan in Sweden.
“There are so many positive things happening in this great sport. On a personal level, I have started following what’s happening in the Elite League in the past couple of seasons.
“I watched GB on TV and jumped out of my chair when they scored in the gold medal game. Like I said, it is an exciting time for hockey in this country.”
With such a storied career in the UK behind him, Moria seems to be enjoying life after his playing days.
“Life is good after hockey. I played a lot of years and I needed a rest”