BY MARK BURNS
Published March 30, 2011
He was a betting man. There was no getting around that. When he arrived at the office, he threw everything on the table.
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The stakes were always high because that’s how he wanted them to be. It didn’t matter if he was competing in an exhibition contest or playing in the 1996 national title game against Colorado College.
He put the pressure on himself to perform.
Except he wasn’t betting with chips like people normally do.
No, he bet using the tools of the trade — the soft wrister that couldn’t break a pane of glass; the not-so-pretty stride that couldn't beat some opposing players in a footrace; the physical presence that couldn’t intimidate an eighth grader.
He bet on himself.
None of it mattered. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t exceptionally gifted in any of those facets of the game.
The expectations of Brendan Morrison were high because Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson demanded more.
“(Morrison's) expectations were he was going to be a leading scorer,” assistant coach Billy Powers said. “He was going to be a point producer. He wanted to be on the ice at the pivotal 5-on-5 shift where we needed a goal.
“His expectations have always been, ‘I’m going to get the goal or make the play that’s going to help us.’”
He came to the rink every day with his pockets turned up and an empty wallet for four long seasons. He was all in, all the time.
For four years, former Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison made a name for himself at 1016 South State St.
“When he needed to perform, and when the chips were on the table, his game was unbelievable,” former teammate and linemate Bill Muckalt said.
Every day, Brendan Morrison was cashing in on one of the most successful careers in Michigan hockey history.
Billy Powers had his eyes fixed on the "Brendan Morrison Shrine" in the Michigan hockey coaches’ lounge.
Fifteen seconds had slowly come and gone.
The Hobey Baker award and a shadow box housing Morrison's No. 9 Michigan jersey sit along one of the walls. Two pictures of Morrison — one by himself on the ice and another with him alongside Berenson accepting the Hobey Baker in 1997 — complete the mural.
It had been a half-minute since I asked Powers the final question of our 10-minute interview: How would you sum up Brendan Morrison in one word, phrase or sentence?
Every 10 seconds, Powers’ eyes darted from the television to the shrine. Finally, he couldn’t remove himself from the tribute to Morrison — evidence of a coach perplexed by the impact of a player who accomplished more than any other Wolverine during his collegiate career.
His silence was evidence of a player who was impossible to describe in a few measly words almost 15 years after his exit from Yost Ice Arena.
A full minute.
As the seconds passed without a response from Powers, others’ answers to the exact same question came to mind.
“Brendan was just a first-class human being,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “If you had a mold of a type of kid, not only for Michigan hockey, but as a Michigan athlete, he’d be it.”
“First class,” equipment manager Ian Hume iterated.
“He was a class act,” said 1994 graduate and former teammate Brian Wiseman.
One hundred and five seconds.
It had been easy for some and harder for others, but Powers finally had an answer to the complex question.
It wasn’t surprising in the least bit — instead, it was expected.
“Classy,” Powers said. “That’s how I’d describe Brendan.”
People associated with the program realized the special character Morrison exhibited during his stay at Michigan.
His exceptional play and his off-ice demeanor commanded respect.
On March 30, 1996, following the Wolverines’ victory over Colorado College in the title game, fans at the Riverfront Coliseum were all witnesses to what Berenson and the Michigan coaching staff already knew for quite some time: This kid was special. Damn special. And he was unlike any player that had come through the program during Berenson's then-13-year career.
As if on cue, with the No.