by Scott Stuccio | AHL On The Beat Archive
“This is your captain speaking.”
Hershey Bears defenseman Mike Moore can certainly say that, having served as team captain of the former Worcester Sharks, the Milwaukee Admirals and the Providence Bruins, and currently wearing the “A” for the Chocolate and White.
Now, he can say that into a microphone from the cockpit of a twin-engine Cessna.
Moore, 443 games into his professional hockey career that has spanned over eight seasons, found a unique way to clear his mind and get away from the ice once in a while. While some players have their own ways of recharging, Moore spent his off-time over the last few years applying some of his college-earned knowledge. The mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Princeton University has hit a big benchmark in his off-ice goals: earning his pilot’s license.
“I haven’t quite gotten to space, yet,” Moore laughed. “But it’s funny, I looked back at the team profile that I made for my pee-wee team. My mom sent it to me the other day. Actually it said ‘future career goals’ and I put ‘astronaut.’ Looking back as a younger kid, I guess that was on my mind. I’m not there yet but you never know, there are lots of possibilities.”
As is often the case, people have a secret dream from childhood. Moore’s was twofold: to play hockey, and go to space.
“This definitely started as a child,” Moore said. “The movie Top Gun came out when I was a kid, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world, flying around in those jets. I’m not quite there yet, either, but it’s been a great learning experience ever since. My uncle flew, and I went up with him when I was younger. He has a plane as well. It’s been great to have him as a mentor, it’s a fun hobby and it’s great knowing that you always have something new to learn.”
The native of Calgary, Alberta, had an injury-shortened season in 2014-15 that limited him to just 41 games. He has dressed in 18 of the Bears’ 23 so far this year. But no matter his game or practice schedule, he always took time to fly, when healthy enough.
Not many American Hockey League cities have a municipal airport nearby and at the ready when someone wants to rent a plane, go for a leisurely test flight or even study for an exam. But just over six miles (5.74 nautical miles) from GIANT Center lies Reigle Field in Lebanon County’s South Londonderry Township. Adjacent to a few softball fields, a dance studio, a library and a twin set of public ice rinks, the privately-owned air strip was Moore’ second home every chance he got. He learned there, and still flies out of there.
“Over the years I’ve taken a few of my teammates up, yes,” Moore said. “I just love flying out of here because there is nothing like the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. They are beautiful flights to follow the river. I really enjoy getting up in the skies here.”
While reflecting on flying his teammates last year, Moore offered something for his current locker room comrades.
“Last year, for the times that I did take guys up, they got called up right away,” he said. “The first time, (Stanislav) Galiev was in the plane and his phone was blowing up when we landed. He asked me to take him to Washington,” Moore laughed. “The next day, Nate Schmidt got called up. So I was telling the boys, if you want to have luck on your side, you might want to go for a flight.”
Maybe some of his buddies will go up as passengers. One former teammate, however, followed in Moore’s footsteps.
“It was actually great to see (current Utica Comets defenseman) Jon Landry join the ranks,” Moore said. “He earned his wings last year. He’s a very, very smart guy and he always wanted to. He did it in half the time that it took me.
“My first solo was five years ago,” Moore continued. “You always remember that. There’s nothing like getting on the runway, getting cleared, looking beside you and you’re the only one on the plane. After that it was just routine, and you know what you were doing because you’ve done it before. You just build confidence and work on becoming efficient and a good pilot.”
Confidence and efficiency – great parallels between two of Mike Moore’s passions in life.