He was known to many of his peers simply as the “ice man.”
Doug Moore — whose youngest daughter, Deborah Wilcock, recently made a $53,000 scholarship donation to Ryerson’s Athletic Department in her father’s memory — only lived through the first 17 years of his ice-making company’s life, but made a lasting impression on those he knew, and he did that with his special talent for making better ice.
Moore developed a water purification system that changed the way ice is made today. His invention eventually sparked the growth of his company, Jet Ice, which now provides water purification systems, ice paint, logos and equipment to the Olympics, worldwide rinks and all but one team in the NHL. The company was even involved in Ryerson’s hockey rink.
Making ice wasn’t all Moore was known for, however.
Moore was born and raised in Richmond Hill, Ont. His family and friends tell the story of a gifted musician who excelled in school. He played sports at an elite level, and he was even drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as a goaltender.
But there was not a lot of money to be made in the NHL 50 years ago, so, despite his talents, Moore opted for a different career in the hockey industry and found it with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hired by Leafs owner Harold Ballard in 1957, Moore began his career as an ice-maker in the engineer room at Maple Leaf Gardens, now known as Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
Brian McFarlane, a former Hockey Night in Canada sportscaster said the working conditions weren’t exactly ideal for his longtime best friend.
He recalls how Ballard was a frugal man. He hired inexperienced workers from the street for cheap labour, posing challenges for Moore’s craft.
“One night before a big game on national television, two of the guys forgot to put water in the Zamboni to resurface the ice,” said McFarlane. “It delayed the game about 10 minutes. I remember Doug telling me about it and just shaking his head in bewilderment at such a simple oversight.”
McFarlane describes how Moore dealt with ice that had half an inch of thickness on one side, and two inches of thickness on the other, brown ice from rodeos the night before and leaking roofs that would drip water onto the ice. “It was a terrible, terrible mess,” he says.
These challenges motivated the “ice man.” The expanded NHL and the longer hockey season presented problems with ice quality and refrigeration in the spring and the fall.
Moore, who was now an engineer, found ways to make better ice. His water purification system design that removed the mineral hardness, increasing the quality and durability of the ice. It ended up changing the industry and how curling, figure skating and hockey rinks are made around the world.
Wilcock, who took over her father’s company after he passed away, said Moore shared his ideas. Moore would travel the country, from Newfoundland, all the way to British Columbia, showing rinks across Canada how to make longer lasting and better quality ice.
“He had such a generous soul that if someone was having a problem out in Regina (Saskatchewan), he would jump on a plane and fly out there, spending two days and all night working on their ice,” said McFarlane. “He’d go out of his way to get better ice in their buildings without charging them for anything other than travel expenses.”
Wilcock says her Dad was always willing to help other people out. “He was always teaching people and never wanted any of the credit. He worked best when he knew people weren’t watching.”
Yet Moore found time for his family. Wilcock remembers how Moore used to take her to wrestling matches at the Maple Leaf Gardens and he and his three children would play in a band together in their free time.
“We were very close,” said Wilcock. “Growing up, we would go to all kinds of house parties and play for people as a family. My Mom would play the bass and my Dad would play guitar. It was just so much fun, and even to this day, music is a big part of my life, and a lot of that has to do with my Dad.”
For Moore, it was always about the people he surrounded himself with. It was never about fame and money. In his hobby as a musician, Moore would volunteer to entertain at friend and family functions. He even wrote and recorded a song, called “The Leaf Fans Dream,” and donated all the proceeds to the Ontario Society for Crippled Children.
Dave Loverock, who worked with Moore for 20 years and helped found Jet Ice, said he always admired Moore for his kindness. Even when Moore had next to nothing in his pocket, and was traveling across Canada trying to sell his product, Loverock said he never hesitated to give back.
“When we first started up [Jet Ice], we had no money,” said Loverock. “We’d go out to Prince Edward Island and have bacon and eggs at a local breakfast place. The bill might’ve been $10, and Doug would give her a $5 tip just because, even though he didn’t have a lot, she had less.”
To honour Moore, Ryerson will be naming the MAC’s engineering operations room “The Engine Room in Memory of Doug Moore,” along with putting up a plaque with the lyrics of “The Leaf Fans Dream,” to celebrate where his inspirational career all began.