The simple life
There aren't many layers to Travis Moen, Anaheim's blossoming 25-year-old left-winger. Just ask any one of his teammates to describe him and the response is usually the same.
"He's a farmer," says Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf. "What else do you want?"
While it's true that Moen, who's scored five goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs including the game winner against Ottawa on Monday, grew up on his family's farm in Stewart Valley, a southwestern Saskatchewan village with a population of 75, there's surely more to Moen than that.
"I don't know, he's a farm kid," insists Getzlaf, who grew up three hours away in Regina. "I always bug him about not knowing what goes on in the big city."
Moen might have a hard time adjusting to the "big city" -- he avoids driving his black F-150 pickup through rush hour traffic at all costs and would rather open up a history book than turn on the television when he gets home -- but his adjustment to big time hockey has been surprisingly seamless.
After scoring an NHL career-high 11 goals this season, Moen has knocked in five goals during the playoffs, including two game-winners. His 10 postseason points puts him just behind team leaders Getzlaf, Chris Pronger and Teemu Selanne. "You get some lucky bounces," says a modest Moen of his increased scoring in the playoffs. "You know, I just go to the net. In the playoffs you don't try anything fancy; you just try to get it into the net because you never know what's going happen."
More valuable than Moen's recent penchant for finding the back of the net has been his continued ability to prevent others from coming to close to his. He and linemates Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer have knocked Ottawa's top line of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson all over the ice during the Stanley Cup finals, holding the high-powered troika to no goals, two assists, 16 giveaways and only 10 shots.
"Everybody wants to score goals but I take pride in my defense," says Moen, who had nine of the team's league-high 71 fighting majors.
"I like hitting and being good defensively, that's more my game. I was never a really goal scorer but I don't mind chipping one in here and there."
Moen's emergence this season and in these playoffs have been especially gratifying considering the setbacks he has endured since being selected by Calgary with the 115th pick of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. A contract with the Flames never materialized and he finally signed with Chicago in 2003, scoring just six points during the season. He was traded to Anaheim last season where he battled knee and shoulder injuries and dressed in only 39 games.
"I worked hard during the summer, rehabbing my knee and my shoulder, and just worked on improving my skating and I came in with some confidence," says Moen, who earned a spot on the checking line alongside Rob Niedermayer and Pahlsson during training camp. "Randy [Carlyle] played me a lot in the exhibition and I kind of got my legs back and after that I just kept rolling."
After a recent practice, Moen was surrounded by a throng of reporters, flashing lights on his reddish playoff beard and sticking dozens of microphones and recorders toward his square jaw. "It's an adjustment," says the soft spoken Moen after finishing his interviews. "There are only 75 people back in Swift Current, and we have a hundred reporters here."
It's the largest contingent of people clamoring to talk to Moen since he was back at the Stewart Valley Co-op, chatting with locals on coffee row, although those conversations usually revolve around more important subjects than hockey. "All the farmers gather and talk about how the seeding is going or how the farms are going," says Moen, who earns the league minimum of $450,000. "It's the main topic of conversation back home"
Farming is so important on the Moen farm -- a 3,200-acre grain and cattle farm established by his great grandfather Albin -- that his brother, Brant, and his mother, Sheryl, were often busy seeding instead of watching Travis' postseason run. They would try and catch some of the games on a Swift Current radio station or watch tapes of the game after they finished their work and call Travis afterward. "Farming comes first," says Moen. "I know that. That's what I would be doing if I were back home. I would be hauling water to the farm in the water truck with my brother."
Moen's older brother, Brant, who took over the fourth generation farm when he was 21 after his father, Brian, succumbed to a heart attack five years ago, has constantly been in touch with Travis during the playoffs, teasing his brother for slacking on his duties at the farm. "He actually called me and said he'd rather me be here because he's doing better without me," jokes Moen. "We have a couple hired hands this year so it takes a little stress off him."
While Moen would love to close out the Stanley Cup finals in Ottawa after winning the first two games in Anaheim, a small part of him wouldn't mind a Game 5 clincher back home in California. Moen's family, Brant, Sheryl and his sister, Kendra, are planning to leave the seeding and plows behind and travel to Anaheim for Game 5, if one is necessary, and stay in California until the series is finished. "It would be so exciting to play in front of my family in a Stanley Cup finals game," says Moen. "It's a dream come true of mine and hopefully I get that opportunity"