Harvard grad Moore hot playoff commodity

Dominic Moore studied sociology at Harvard.

But in reality, he was majoring in hockey. In that sense, he might not be so different from another former Crimson athlete who has come to great notoriety in recent weeks — the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin.

As enlightening as a Harvard education might be, nothing could have prepared Moore for the itinerant lifestyle he would lead as an NHL player. When Tampa Bay dealt him to San Jose on Feb. 16, the Sharks became Moore’s ninth team in eight seasons.

His entry in the league’s Guide and Record Book, which, for some players, is but a few words, reads like a travelogue of North America. He has played in traditional hockey hotbeds and slept many nights in hotel beds, the customary accommodation of the deadline rental player. He has played in the Sun Belt and the Snow Belt.

He was a third-round pick in the 2000 NHL draft and there’s some symmetry in the fact that he has twice been traded for third-round picks. But showing some upward mobility, the last three times — in 2009, 2010 and in 2012 — he has fetched second-round picks.

It’s a dichotomy that the 31-year-old center is both in demand and unwanted.

“Well, I think if you ask anyone, no one likes to move,” Moore said. “It’s kind of an uprooting experience, but at the same time everything happens for a reason and as a player you’ve got to be ready for everything.”

The upside for Moore is that he always seems to get to play in the playoffs, even when the team he starts out on fares poorly. He said he’s excited to be with the Sharks and that he has respected the team for a number of years.

Moore’s skills are the kind that playoff teams in particular savor. He has played on teams that have advanced to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, which would seem to make him a sort of lucky rabbit’s foot for the team acquiring him.

For Montreal, he netted four goals in 19 playoff games in 2010, almost double his regular-season pace of 10 in 69 games. Last season as a member of the Lightning, he was part of a group that surprised many. He posted 11 points in 18 playoff games — again, well ahead of his regular season production at a time when scoring becomes more difficult — while playing 17:46 per game, more than two minutes more than he averaged during the regular season.

Out of the playoff race in what has been a disappointing season, and with Moore in the final season of a two-year deal that pays him $1.2 million in 2011-12, Tampa Bay jettisoned Moore along with a few other players in an effort to rebuild. This season, the Sharks, in a battle for the Pacific Division title, are hoping to make use of his grit and defensive skills.

“He has some experience,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “He’s a utility guy that can play on different lines and in different situations. Good in the (faceoff) circle. A penalty-kill upgrade.”

Versatility — it’s something that coaches in almost every sport prize.

“For me, I try to be as well-rounded as a player as I can and contribute wherever I can,” Moore said.

Maybe versatility can cut both ways. Maybe it’s both a blessing and a curse. Adaptability has been a key to Moore’s success. Teams know that because, on the one hand, he can adapt and, on the other, he is valuable, he becomes both a good piece to acquire and to trade — kind of a commodity — which has led to a vicious cycle.

Changing teams so often means having to learn a new system, a new coach, new teammates. Unfortunately for Moore, he got hurt early in just his third game with the Sharks and has missed the last three in what the team calls a “lower-body injury.”

Instead of being able to learn on the fly, his process has been more “visual and verbal,” McLellan said. That means watching video and listening to coaches. Maybe that’s where the Harvard education helps out.

“Well, every team’s different, but, you know, part of the job is kind of getting acclimatized and getting used to new systems and to be honest that comes with playing and getting into games and getting used to the system that way,” Moore said.

Moore, who is eight years older than his fellow Harvard alum Lin, said he has followed the basketball player’s saga, calling it a “great story.” Moore agreed with the notion that a Harvard athlete might get overlooked because of where he went to school.

“I think in some respects a Harvard athlete may be looked at as someone who’s not as committed as someone who went to a different school and that’s not always the case,” he said.

He cited his own example. He wanted to be a pro hockey player. The majority of NHL players come out of the junior ranks, rather than the NCAA ranks, making his journey to the NHL out of an Ivy League school an even bigger rarity.

“I think especially a place like Harvard has a reputation for being such a great academic place,” he said, “but there’s a lot of athletes there and they actually have more Division I sports than any place in the country, so it can be a misconception sometimes.”

What’s not a misconception is that Moore is a valuable pro — one who could find himself on a new team come next October.