This story accompanies a larger profile of former Michigan hockey player Brendan Morrison, “Money In the Bank: Brendan Morrison’s lasting legacy of embodying Michigan hockey,” that was featured in The Statement on April 6, 2010.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp decided to take one last verbal jab at the former center of the West Coast Express.
On March 3, 2011, Brendan Morrison suffered a potential season-ending hit from Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Following the blow, Morrison skated to the Calgary Flames bench. After about 20 seconds, he got there.
That’s when a few Blackhawks decided to pour salt on the wound, particularly Sharp, who could be seen saying a few words to Morrison while pointing at his knee.
“You do what you do and try and get off the ice,” Morrison told The Calgary Herald after the game. “I don’t know if they understood what was going on but some young guys on their team were standing up and yelling. I don’t think it’s very professional, but they’ll learn.”
And while Morrison’s last few strides at the United Center in early March probably won’t be his last, his almost 15-year career is slowly winding down.
Morrison has played on four teams over the past three NHL seasons following an eight-year stint with the Vancouver Canucks. He calls the time he spent back home in British Columbia “the turning point” in his career.
The West Coast Express — the name adopted from the Vancouver commuter rail service — was born soon after his arrival.
Beginning in the 2001-02 campaign and continuing for the next five seasons, Morrison, power winger Todd Bertuzzi and sniper Marcus Naslund became one of the most feared lines in the game.
“It was a tremendous opportunity for me when I went to Vancouver,” Morrison said. “We really challenged each other every night to be at our best … It’s something we enjoyed — to be counted on every night to try and provide offense for our team.”
After leaving Vancouver in 2008 and bouncing around from Anaheim to Dallas and then to Washington, Calgary took a chance on the 35-year-old Morrison. Before sustaining the left knee injury, Morrison centered the Flames’ top line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. With 9 goals and 34 assists through 66 games, he looked like he would be returning to vintage Morrison form.
For Morrison, it’s a wait-and-see game with the “slight chance” that he’ll return this season.
“We’re doing everything we can to get ready (for the playoffs),” Morrison said. “Looks like we might just run out of time. There’s still some swelling in the knee … but it’s a long way off from skating by myself and getting into game action.”
At this point in his career, Morrison said he’s concerned about winning and making a deep playoff run. Whether he cashes in one more time with a Stanley Cup is yet to be determined.
But what is clear is the “Hobey Baker career” alluded to by Berenson. Being named three times as a finalist for Division-I hockey’s version of the Heisman, as well as two-time CCHA Player of the Year, is unprecedented at the college level.
On Feb. 15, 1997, in one of his final regular season games in a Michigan uniform, Morrison put the “exclamation point” on a four-year legacy defined by milestones, records and achievements, according to Muckalt.
That Saturday night, in front of the Children of Yost, Morrison tallied two goals and two assists against Notre Dame. The entire Michigan bench emptied in the third period to congratulate Morrison on becoming the all-time scoring leader in program history.
There was nothing the coaching staff could do to stop the players from greeting Morrison — they were going to celebrate his feat.
The game stopped for a few minutes, with Fighting Irish coach Dave Poulin showing steam in the post-game press conference about the excessive celebration.
It didn’t matter. This was Morrison’s night.
“He got everything out of Michigan that one could get,” Wiseman said. “It’s good that it happened to him. There’s not a better person that’s probably been through the program that embodies what Michigan hockey is and should be.”
Morrison had cashed in at Yost Ice Arena, and everyone was taking notice.
It was “pay day” once again.