As the black and gold jerseys fill the freshly surfaced ice, there’s one player who stands out above the rest. Not because of his towering pads or ability to crack a perfectly timed joke, but because of the way he carries himself through adversity.
Adam Moroz, a fifth-year goalie and now one of the team’s captains, once started out as a wet-behind-the-ears prospect with plenty to learn, but now occupies the role of not only team leader, but off-the-ice role model and “social leader” for the Long Beach State Ice Hockey Club.
“He has an unbelievable sense of humor, he can always crack a joke or be part of it,” fourth-year center and team captain Francis Lemay said. “He is one of the guys that the team rallies around because his energy is positive. But he’s also one of the guys that you can talk to if shit isn’t working well.”
Moroz grew up in Long Beach and attended Wilson High School hoping to make a name in men’s indoor volleyball.
His attention quickly shifted to ice hockey during his junior year when he attended his first game and remembered thinking to himself, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Goaltending and the gear was what appealed to him most, seemingly towering over all of the others skating around the ice while rocking the flashiest helmet in the rink.
“Just the idea of being the last line of defense and having the ability to have those stellar performances always attracted me,” Moroz recalled. “I thought that was badass.”
Moroz wasn’t always the outspoken team leader for the defensive side. He began his career buried on the Beach’s “dysfunctional” bench behind two other goalies as a freshman.
“His growth has been fantastic to watch,” fifth-year forward and team president Austin Stanovich said. “I think coming in as a freshman he struggled a lot to take the jump from youth hockey to college, which is very common in goalies. His first year as a third-string goalie he saw very limited minutes, but instead of letting that deter him he worked that much harder to earn a spot.”
Making the jump from third-string to unquestioned starter takes a lot of internal growth, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the seismic shift the club underwent as a whole.
“Coming in at the same time Adam did … the environment within the team wasn’t great,” Stanovich said. “Changing it took a massive, collective effort from everyone involved with this team.”
At the forefront of the revolution was Moroz, who had his sights set on greatness from the beginning and accepted the challenge of getting his hands dirty in order to bring life back into the club.
“I think the biggest thing was coming together and deciding what we want from this program,” Stanovich said when the captains began to assess the direction of their club. “Do we want it to be a glorified beer league team that practices once a week and plays 10 games? Or do we want to start the process of making this program one of the best in California? Once we established it was the latter, it was all about instilling good leadership and having zero tolerance for players that worked against that common goal.”
Leadership is the key phrase, and “[Moroz] tells everyone a lot about how the team changed,” fourth-year winger Matthew Hoeksema said. “[Moroz, Lemay and Stanovich] were the leaders who turned it around.”
It took a lot more than just talking about change for anything to happen. Moroz began to show the team what needed to be done, and soon after, the younger players began to pick up on the little things he would do to keep himself at the top of his game.
“Not many guys put in the hours to improve that Adam did, and his play time rose each year because of it,” Stanovich said. “It seems like it has a good effect on our younger goalies as well … I think that mentality is something you always need to be ingrained in a team, and I think we have a group of younger guys that will keep up that mentality.”
As one of the few veterans on the ice, Moroz has an aura about him that is matched by none else.
“He’s a fun guy to be around. He knows when to be serious, but he knows when to be fun,” Hoeksema said. “No one’s scared to be themselves around him, he’s someone you can talk to.”
Hoeksema may know Moroz the best out of everyone on the team, having been alongside Moroz when he began his hockey career in high school, and has seen how Moroz’s team-first mentality has rubbed off on his fellow skaters.
“We would go out and he would start buying drinks and be friendly about it, so a lot of the guys said we had an ‘unlimited card,’” Hoeksema recalled. “Is Moroz going? We need him to buy drinks.”
Whether it’s the unlimited amount of beers he’s handing to teammates or countless hours spent bettering himself mentally and physically, on and off the ice, Moroz has left his stamp on the Long Beach State Ice Hockey Club for years to come.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone like him,” Hoeksema said.