Ice Hockey, Sports

Mike Moran: Fulfilling a hockey dream



He puts on the scarlet and white sweater, laces up his skates and joins his teammates in a single-file line into the tunnel that connects the bowels of Agganis Arena to the playing surface.

After taking a couple of steps and high-fiving some young face-painted fans sitting in the lower section near the Boston University bench, Mike Moran hits the ice for warmups. But as he takes a couple of strides and turns to the other side of the ice, he looks up into the stands.

At the top of section 102, he peers high into a suite and sees a framed BU No. 11 jersey. To most, the jersey and the numbers stitched on the back of it mean little. But to the 24-year-old Moran, his uncle Mark Bavis’ uniform represents more than just red and white polyester.

It symbolizes a family, tradition and a hockey dream.

Growing up in Massachusetts, two things were always near and dear to Moran’s heart –hockey and, more specifically, BU hockey.

For as long as he can remember, Moran has been in and around Boston University. Before he could even walk, he was sitting in the stands at hockey games. When he was only two weeks old, he was making the trip to Walter Brown Arena.

Just about every Friday and Saturday night, his father would drive him, his brother and sister the 45 minutes from their home in Marshfield to BU’s campus.

With his fresh face pressed up against the glass in the first row of the arena, Moran watched some of BU’s best teams from the 90s and early 2000s. He soon fell in love with the players, teams and ambiance of Walter Brown. The games, as exciting as they were for a young Moran, were only part of the experience. The postgame became quite the thrill, too.

“Just like any little kid, we’d get to meet the players,” Moran said. “So, looking back now, when little kids come in, I love to interact with them because I’ve been there and I know how they get excited because I definitely got excited when I went in there and saw guys like Ryan Whitney, Brian McConnell. It was really something special as a kid growing up to be around.”

The meet-and-greet sessions were a special time for Moran, and they left an indelible mark on him. Talking to the players on a personal level meant a lot to him. He chatted with all-stars, future NHLers and legendary coach Jack Parker. But two players really became idols for him — his uncles Mark and Mike Bavis.

Although Moran was at most two years old when they played with the Terriers, the twins were what Moran aspired to be when he was their age. They were players that added a combination of skill and grit to teams that reached four NCAA Tournaments and three Frozen Fours. For them, the team came first and stats were secondary.

To Mike Bavis, his team and the BU community became something akin to a tight-knit family.

“A big part of our lives was spent at BU with some people that we had such close relationships with — teammates and people around the athletic department,” Bavis said. “And obviously Jack Parker and his family. It was always a big part of our lives after we arrived there.”

The mark that BU left on the Bavises resonated with Moran. So much, in fact, that by the time he was in grade school, he knew that BU was the college for him. Despite his father attending school across town at Northeastern University, Moran felt more at home on Commonwealth than Huntington Avenue.

So sitting in front of the TV in his basement back home, Moran, clad in his own BU gear, watched the Terriers hoist the Beanpot and Hockey East trophies.

He dreamt that one day that would be him.

As soon as he was ready and able to, Moran was on skates whenever he could be. He tried to consume as much hockey as possible.

He and his friends did other things and ventured into other sports, like football and baseball, but nothing compared to the culture of Massachusetts junior hockey.

“Growing up and playing here is always fun because there’s so much hockey,” Moran said. “Everywhere you look, almost everyone that I knew growing up was playing hockey. Obviously you get your buddies playing other sports. But I look back and I had a blast, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

And when he was on the ice, he tried to emulate his uncles as much as possible. He scored when the opportunity was there, and did a lot of that when he was younger, but becoming a well-rounded player on both ends of the ice was what he truly wanted. In keeping with family tradition, he started wearing the No. 8, just like his uncle Mike. Every time he took the ice, his family was with him, especially in his mind.

This was never more apparent than in 2001.

On the morning of September 11, Mark Bavis, then a scout for the Los Angeles Kings, was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 when hijackers crashed it into the World Trade Center. A day that affected thousands of people truly hit home for the Bavis and Moran families.

“Not only did that change my life,” Moran said, “it changed a ton of peoples’ lives.”

He had lost one of the most influential and transfixing figures in his life. After that tragic day, Moran decided he not only wanted to be like his uncles on and off the ice, but he wanted to honor his uncle Mark in any way he could.

In just a few years, he’d get that chance.

After basically spending his entire life in Massachusetts, Moran eventually made the move south to Watertown, Connecticut, where he attended the Taft School.

During his time at the prep school, he was a multi-sport athlete, excelling at football, baseball and hockey. He was good at all three, but of course, his hockey performance stood out.

He captained the hockey team during his final year at Taft, leading in both goals and points. After graduation he was ready to move on to junior hockey and the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League.

Moran hoped his numbers (43 points in 37 games) and the work ethic he displayed in the BCHL would be enough to make an impression with the BU coaching staff, so he could one day commit to the school he long wanted to attend. Lucky for him, someone who knew him pretty well just happened to be a coach.

At the time, his uncle Mike was an associate head coach for Jack Parker. Bavis knew that BU had a spot to fill, and although Moran wasn’t the flashiest of recruits, he would fit well into BU’s system as a hard-working player.

“He was playing junior hockey, he was an older player,” Bavis said. “It was Buddy Powers and myself [recruiting him]. There was never any question of his character and as he would get older, he would improve. If that was the case, he’s the type of kid you want on your team.

“I think of guys like John McCarthy, back in my time, he was a guy that worked hard, kept improving and ultimately was a big part of a national championship team,” he added. “And I think Mike kind of fit that bill, in terms of being a multi-sport athlete, so he could continue to improve as he got older.”

Parker took Bavis’ word and agreed to allow Moran to commit to the Terriers. What had long been a dream for Moran was finally setting in as a reality.

When Moran stepped on to campus as a freshman in 2012, he was no longer sitting behind the glass watching the Terriers; he was over the glass playing for them.

Even more surreal was the fact that he was playing, in part, for his Uncle Mike. Bavis didn’t let the family connection get in the way of coaching and developing Moran, though. When Moran made a bad play, Bavis would let him know. There was no sugarcoating.

“It was really funny because growing up, he was just always around,” Moran said. “He would give me tips and stuff, but it was special playing for one year and just be able to learn from him.

“And he shoots straight, he would tell me I was terrible and he was telling me when I was doing good.”

Freshman year, Moran tried to establish himself in any role that the team would need him in. He wasn’t the scorer that fellow freshman Danny O’Regan was, so Moran tried to hone in on being more of a defensive forward, looking to keep the energy and momentum going when he had a shift, even though his fourth-line ice time was limited.

Nothing better symbolized this attitude than the number he chose to wear on his jersey.

Although he’d worn No. 8 for much of his hockey career, he chose to wear No. 11, just like Uncle Mark.

“It was just something, I felt that, not that I needed to do, but I really wanted to do,” Moran said. “Not only say that I played here but I played with the same number that my Uncle Mark did. … It’s just something special to be able to wear No. 11 and know that you’re able to do the same thing that your uncle did.”

And since freshman year, he’s done a lot of what his uncle did.

Moran’s worked even more to become an all-around hockey player, focusing on being a good player on both ends of the ice. So far, he’s more than fulfilled this role.

As a whole, the team struggled in his second season, but Moran became a better player as a sophomore. At the end of the 2013-14 season, he was named BU’s Most Improved Player.

He continued to excel in both zones during his third year, becoming a key component in the team’s magical season. Like his uncles before him, he got to hold the Beanpot trophy. He won a Hockey East title. He made the Frozen Four.

And it wasn’t just because of his team-first mentality. He also chipped in some timely goals, like the breakaway goal he scored in the Beanpot Championship. Because of his performance, Moran will also figure to play a more prominent role this season, according to head coach David Quinn.

“He certainly understands, he accepts his role, he embraces his role,” Quinn said. “You may not see him on the score sheet, but he’s scored some important goals — the goal at BC last year. He’s as likeable as a guy as we have here and he’s going to be a big part of our team moving forward.”

Warmups come to a close and Mike Moran lines up with his team on the blue line.

As the national anthem blares over the sound system, he looks down at his own jersey, his own No. 11. With the attitude, work ethic and character he’s exuded on and off the ice, he can take pride in what he’s accomplished.

His family sure has.

“He’s a great kid and carries himself well and he certainly represents his family well and he represents BU very well,” Bavis said. “We’re certainly proud of that.”

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