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2011-04-06

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Money in the Bank: Brendan Morrison's lasting legacy of embodying Michigan hockey

BY MARK BURNS

Published March 30, 2011

1 label attached to him and his program, Morrison finally declared in front of everybody: “This is for all the (Michigan) guys who never had a chance to win it.”

He had just scored the game-winning goal — a wide-open shot on Tiger goaltender Ryan Bach and arguably one of the easiest of his career — to clinch Michigan’s eighth national championship.

And all he could think about was the past: the Wolverines’ failures in the NCAA Tournament, the overtime losses, the upsets.

Former Wolverines like Mike Knuble, David Harlock and Aaron Ward, who preceded Morrison and didn’t have the opportunity to win a national title — this was for them.

The program's 32-year championship drought was over, and Morrison knew who he had scored for.

“He put that moment — that was a special moment for him — but he had the wherewithal to acknowledge those people that fell a little short who came before him,” Wiseman said. “That says it all about the kind of guy he is.”

Even to this day, Morrison is in a class all by himself.

“He epitomizes the Michigan hockey program,” Berenson said. “If you met him, you would have thought he was a fourth-line player.”

September 1993

Morrison had only witnessed a few hockey games, a gymnastics meet and the infamous Fab Five during his first recruiting trip to Ann Arbor.

He was “blown away by the atmosphere and the whole magnitude of Michigan.”

But that was all before he stepped into the office of legendary player and coach Red Berenson, the trendsetter in transitioning college players to the National Hockey League.

Needless to say, the extracurricular activities were an afterthought following the meeting with the former NHL Coach of the Year.

“I guess you could say I went through the ringer with him a little bit,” Morrison now jokes. “He doesn't beat around the bush at all. He tells you the way things are, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him because of that quality.”

While some coaches reverted to wining and dining potential recruits, Berenson flipped the equation, asking hopeful Wolverines what they could do for Michigan.

Once fall rolled around for the start of the 1993-1994 campaign, a boyish 18-year-old Morrison walked into the locker room. Berenson soon found out what the Pitt Meadows, British Columbia native was going to do for the program — and him.

Associate head coach Mel Pearson had seen similar body types as Morrison’s, who looked more like he should be entering high school rather than the storied University of Michigan hockey program.

“He had that look to him, he just looked so young,” Pearson said of Morrison. “He looked like he was 12 years old, and he shouldn’t be in college.”

Regardless of how he may not have been able to grow a modern prototypical-Matt Rust beard in a week, it was Morrison’s on-ice presence that really caught the attention of the Michigan coaching staff, as well as teammates such as then-senior Brian Wiseman.

“We were in awe in regards to his talent level coming in as a freshman,” Wiseman said of his first impressions of Morrison. “You knew he had something special that we were going to see at some point in time in his career.”

Wiseman and other seniors like goaltender Steve Shields were overwhelmed by the freshman's abilities. Morrison’s uncanny knack for locating teammates on the ice was a quality uncharacteristic of players so young in their Division-I career.

But everything Morrison accomplished was expected of him, even if he was only a freshman.

Morrison had a dynamic '92 campaign with the British Columbia Hockey League's Penticton Panthers, with whom he tallied 35 goals and 59 assists.

"He came in with a lot of accolades, and it wasn't too long before everybody knew that he was as good as advertised,” Hume said.

Michigan was fortunate that Morrison made the decision to eventually open an account in Ann Arbor.

The Assets

Brendan Morrison would wait, wait and wait some more. He’d hold onto the puck for as long he could until finally pulling the trigger and making crisp cross-ice passes heading out of the zone.

But it wouldn’t be without raising coach Red Berenson’s blood pressure a few notches, as the 27-year coach jokes years later.

“We’d be on the bench. ‘Move it, move it,’ ” Berenson remembered. “And he would be holding it, and then he’d make a great play.