Talk about a true walk-off win — the Manitoba Moose’s most recent victory has gone viral due to a unique shootout celebration by Jeff Malott.
Malott Exits Stage Left, Takes Internet By Storm
How would you celebrate if you scored the shootout game winner in a comeback victory? How about not at all?
On Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Wolves in downtown Winnipeg, Moose forward Jeff Malott did just that. In the fourth round of the shootout, with the game on his stick, he tucked the puck through Jack LaFontaine’s wickets to cap the victory.
After he scored, he eschewed any show of emotion or bench fly-by, instead going straight down the tunnel and disappearing. Credit the door attendant for opening it in a flash (in reality, they opened the door to let the Wolves’ backup goalie, Alex Lyon, out.)
This author was fortunately enough to witness the “stone cold” celebration in person, and many fans had a good chuckle about what they’d just witnessed.
Within hours, far more than the 4,064 in attendance at Canada Life Centre saw Malott put the game away, then peace out. The undrafted, second-year forward went viral, as the video was picked up and commented on by just about every notable sports media outlet and many personalities.
The video racked up nearly 400,000 views on the Moose’s Twitter account, more than 350,000 views on Sportsnet, 350,000 views on Sportscentre’s Jay Onrait’s account, and 150,000 views on BarDown’s Instagram account.
We won’t know exactly why Malott decided to celebrate like he did, since he didn’t speak with the media after the game. Head coach Mark Morrison, when asked by Jacob Stoller postgame to comment, said “I didn’t see it! I was doing my own celebration, Jacob!” When Stoller told the bench boss what happened, he laughed and said “so none of the players could congratulate him?”
However, internet commenters provided their (often humourous) takes: that he needed to go to the bathroom, that the coach told him there were beers in the dressing room if they won, or that he got a text from him girlfriend to come over.
Malott’s Celebration Could Be the Bit of Levity the Moose Needed
The Moose have been extremely shorthanded all season due to injuries and COVID-19 outbreaks on the Jets but have coped spectacularly well overall thanks to a strong culture of inclusivity. The fact they’re in second in the AHL’s Central Division despite dressing more than 40 different players in 47 games — and have had many ECHL call-ups and players on PTOs rotating in and out of the lineup — is testament to their work ethic and drive.
That being said, they’ve struggled lately and entered the game against the Wolves losers of five of their past six. They were pumped 5-1 on Saturday against the Wolves and fell behind early Sunday as well, trailing 3-1 within the first 11 minutes to the AHL’s top team.
But they showed strong resolve and battled back, scoring a pair of goals in the second to tie the game 3-3 and controlling the play in the third. Malott, who has 14 goals on the season, had six shots and a few Grade-A chances, but couldn’t find twine until the shootout. Perhaps his celebration was borne of a feeling of relief for finally potting one.
With the victory, the Moose moved to 27-17-2-1 and remain in second in the Central.
The Moose are a resilient, likeable team with a strong identity; really, they’re everything the drastically underperforming Jets are not. They deserve attention, not only from the Jets’ fan base, but from hockey fans in general. If Malott’s goal and celebration can help do that, it can only give them a further boost.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.