The Jasper Local: You’re a guy who after a long career still has a high level of energy for his work, what do you attribute that to?
Billy Moores: When you work with kinds you’re pretty fortunate to feed off of their enthusiasm. That was the case when I taught junior high and worked with young professional hockey players. When you ask them to be enthusiastic you better model it.
JL: You’ve had success at all levels of hockey that you’ve played and coached at. What have been the keys to that track record?
BM: I think it’s the fact that I’ve always believed in the potential of people. Especially when you teach, you realize how much potential kids have. Part of my role is to help them reach that potential.
JL: What have been your most gratifying moments? Are there games or seasons that stick out for you?
BM: We did win some championships but it’s not those things I remember. It’s more the people I remember, the relationships you build—those are life-long.
It’s such an intense environment, you go through things together and you have to be supportive of each other. You form close bonds.
JL: Your relationship with Oilers GM Craig MacTavish began when you were an assistant coach in New York in 1996. Can you talk about those years and how that relationship evolved?
BM: I was part of the Rangers the year before Craig joined the coaching staff. We had Messier, Gretzky—and Dallas Eakins, as a matter of fact. Colin Campbell was the head coach. During Mac-T’s first year coaching I remember we had this small office, just being crammed in there. Mess was gone that year—he had been a very important part of the New York scene. It took time to get over that loss.
But I think just just having the opportunity to talk hockey in that small room and share ideas, to look at video was important. We got to understand a little bit better the players’ perspective.
JL: A common adage in hockey—maybe all team sports—is that there are players’ coaches and management’s coaches, the former meaning you’re close to the players, a la Badger Bob Johnson, and the latter meaning you’re more of a rule-maker, maybe like a Pat Burns-type. Is there such a spectrum and if so, where do you fall on it?
BM: Everybody has their own personal style. If you’re comfortable being close to your players and still making tough decisions, that’s fine. But it can be tough if you get too close. My personal style was to be close to the players but to also be fairly business-like. I found it easier to make decisions about ice times and who’s not dressing if I kept myself a little bit detached.
JL: How do you make those tough decisions? How did you let people know they wouldn’t be dressing that night?
BM: We always had good teams at the University of Alberta. And even though we carried 26 guys, only 19 or 20 could play. In those situations it’s all about communication, letting guys know where they stand. It comes back to the concept of taking personal responsibility for their own potential.
JL: What about that concept? How do you break it down for a kid that has the hockey world at their fingertips but without the right decision making could also see it all wash away?
BM: Personal responsibility is the idea that this is your career. We can give you lots of tools and resources but ultimately you have to make a decision important enough for you to really take hold of it. We talk about challenging your comfort zone, not being worried about being embarrassed, and the guys that generally come the furthest generally know it’s their careers and they’re going to do everything they can. It’s not much different than any other walk of life.
JL: You were the Oilers’ head of player development for some time and its generally considered that you revamped the program. What were the main tenants of that change?
BM: The organization was struggling. Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini at the time wanted to do something to bring players up through the organization in a more structured way. What we did was we combined a hockey model—a complete hockey player, one with high speed skills, who thinks the game well, and who has a toughness or compete component—with an elaborate evaluation process. We created individualized programs for each player, identifying their strengths, leadership skills and the areas they had to get better in. We took that and put in into a computer program—everyone got their own page. It’s grown since I left. Players have constant access to resources, and we have ongoing communication about reaching their goals.
We also encourage that the players take initiative—if they want extra resources they can come get that as well, things like help with the skating coach, nutrition, or a sports psychologist.
JL: What was the player development program like before you got there?
BM: Before we had player development coaches that would work with our draft picks, but nothing was really formal. This is a way to try to set goals, get buy-in with a player. It’s a collaborative thing in terms of goal setting.
JL: How has your visit to Jasper been? Tell me about the facilities, some highlights of your trip.
BM: Everything’s been great. [Jasper’s] Doug McPhee and [current Director of Edmonton Oilers Player Development] Rick Carriere did all the leg work setting this up. The rink has been fantastic, the meals have been fantastic, we’ve been using the Jasper Elementary School to review video. The off ice ice facilities have been very good. We’re staying out at Pine Bungalows, a fantastic environment. This is the first time coming to Jasper for a lot of the kids.
this conversation has been edited.// email@example.com