Dominic Moore is having a “holy mackerel” moment.
Smashfest, the NHL veteran’s fundraising brainchild, will celebrate its sixth summer mashing ping-pong, partying and fan-driven philanthropy into a cocktail for success on July 20 at Toronto’s Steamwhistle Brewery.
“Really, all we thought about was trying to do a great job the first year. Make it great. Make it so everyone who was there leaves saying, ‘You know what? That was awesome. I want to come back.’ Then we tried to do the same thing the next year,” Moore says.
“These are the moments where you’re like, ‘It’s been six years now. Holy mackerel.’ ”
Doing good has no business being as fun as Smashfest VI will be.
Through its first five years, Moore’s ping-pong challenge has raised more than $500,000 for the Katie Moore (rare cancers) and Steve Moore (concussions) foundations.
An opportunity for fans to contribute money (attendance packages go for $250 or $750 at smashfest.ca and include all you can eat, drink and selfie) to worthy causes while competing against and with NHL stars, Smashfest has established itself as a must-attend event on the hockey calendar.
“We know we’re doing a good job because players, guests and sponsors all want to come back. But at the same time we want to keep it fresh and have new things. That is a challenge, but it’s also fun to be creative, to put a new spin on things every year—and grow it, too, which we’ve been able to do,” Moore says.
“We’re hoping to have a few surprises, and we’re expecting to have 20-plus [NHL] guys again and a couple new elements at the event.”
Rare is the event where you cannot just try to steal an autograph but actually hang out and share a beer with one of your favourite players. The NHLers who attend are easily accessible and happy to chat with fans. Aaron Ekblad, Mitch Marner, Steven Stamkos, Tyler Seguin, Martin St. Louis, Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard are among past attendees.
Moore plans to reveal this summer’s guest list in stages but assures us the Boston Bruins‘ best ping-pong player will in attendance.
“One guy I’m excited to have come is Ryan Spooner. He’s another avid ping-pong guy. He’s been added to the ringers’ tournament, the guys who take it seriously,” says Moore, a 36-year-old centre whose ping-ponging to 10 different clubs has made him sort of the Kevin Bacon of the NHL. He’s one degree of friendship away from everyone.
“The Rangers, the last couple years, they weren’t known for their ping-pong talent. Once Marty St. Louis left, it was slim pickings to be honest. Jasper Fast was pretty good. Boston was good with Spooner. [David] Krejci was pretty solid. [David] Pastrnak is decent as well, but Spooner is the best of those guys.”
While Patrick Eaves reigns as Smashfest’s two-time defending champ, Moore insists a three-peat is not a lock.
“Alex Burrows had Eaves down two sets to love last year and ended up losing three sets to two, but he had the match on his racket. Match point a couple times. As much as Eaves has come through, it’s not a given that he’ll repeat. There’s some good players, and Spooner is in that group. Jeff Skinner is in that group. We’ll see what happens,” says Moore, who’s not afraid to take credit for Eaves’ 32-goal breakout season.
“He gained a huge amount of confidence from winning the Smashfest title, I would think. If you’ve seen his goals this year, a lot of them were tips in front of the net. A lot of hand-eye-coordination type goals.”
Smashfest has meaning much deeper than a fun night on the town.
Moore credits his mother, “an incredibly bright lady” and voracious reader of cancer research and biotechnology, for connecting him to Cambridge’s Broad Institute, a progressive research lab associated with MIT and Harvard (Moore’s alma mater).
“We’ve initiated through them a brand-new project called the Rare Cancer Cell Line Factory,” Moore says. “This is a project that is extremely perfect for rare cancers.”
Because developing specific drugs to treat rare cancers is too expensive, experts from a variety of fields have joined forces to collect rare cancer tissues from patients all over the world, bring them to a Broad lab and build a cell line. Against those live, growing cancer tissues, researchers can test existing drugs to see what works. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Complications and obstacles abound.
“When these minds work together, they can solve some of these problems,” says Moore, who stays informed and involved in the cause year-round. “They’re doing great work, and we’re really proud of it.”