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So much has changed for Dominic Moore since the last time he played for the New York Rangers, but he's glad the long painful road has led him back to New York.
Last week, Moore inked a one-year, $1 million deal to return to the team that drafted him in 2000, ending a months-long absence from hockey after the tragic death of his wife, Katie, who died in January from a rare form of liver cancer.
"It was a very, very difficult decision to not play but, at the same time, it was definitely the right decision," Moore said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "The months after that gave me the chance to regroup and clear my head.
"Going through, as anyone who has cared for someone with cancer [knows], it's a battle the whole family is in. After you've been through that, you need some time to re-organize and, I don't even know what the right word is, but just kind of regroup."
Though he had offers to return once the lockout ended -- the Rangers expressed interest in the 32-year-old center -- Moore wasn't ready to resume playing.
What has the past year been like for Moore?
"That's a good question that could probably, you know, take a lifetime to answer," said Moore, who last played for the San Jose Sharks after being traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. "Obviously, the ups and downs throughout the course of dealing with the disease and what we went through there -- it's a lot to try and describe in one simple answer, but the one thing is, I'm grateful for the time that we had.
"In a way, those months were the most special months we had with each other that anyone could possibly ask for, despite it being the most difficult and painful ones anyone could expect or deal with."
Moore has kept himself in good shape, even cross-training with the Harvard tennis team, while spending time back in the Boston area this summer before hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent. He also has been using his time trying to get a foundation in Katie's memory (KatieMoore.org) off the ground while organizing his second annual ping-pong tournament fundraiser (smashfest.ca) which benefits concussion research and the Katie Moore Foundation.
When he decided he was ready to return, the answer was clear. He wanted to come back to Broadway.
"There's no doubt coming back to New York was what I wanted to happen or that it was my first choice," said Moore, who spent 2003-06 with the Rangers. "For a variety of reasons, I've always been drawn back there. I'm grateful that it's come to fruition."
Even throughout the various stops in his career -- Moore has played for nine different teams -- he has regarded New York as one of the top places to play.
Though he will do so with a heavy heart, he'll finally be back where his NHL career began.
"I couldn't be more excited," he said. "Obviously, I have great memories from over the years playing at MSG, both as a Ranger and as a visiting player and it's always been one of my favorite places to play, if not the favorite.
"It's just the atmosphere and there's something special about MSG that everyone knows. I can't wait to be back and put that Ranger jersey back on. It's going to be a great feeling."
Moore also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support he has received since Katie's death.
"It is amazing when you see the community. Hockey is a small world," he said. "Katie and I have both been very lucky to have the network and support of friends and family -- a lot of that network is the hockey world we've lived in for so many years. I'm very grateful for that support all the time throughout the illness, but also, after the worst."
Moore's good friend and former teammate Kevin Weekes, now an NHL analyst, said the Rangers are getting both a quality person and quality player in Moore.
"He's a guy that thrives on the big moments," Weekes said when reached by phone from the Rangers' youth camp. "It's a great fit for New York, a great fit for him and it will be be very natural there. I have zero doubts, [there is] zero downside. You're getting a lot of attributes in one player and a lot of versatility in one player."