(Photo: Dinur Blum)
For some, getting into the game is as simple as following in the skate strides of a loved one. But for San Francisco Bulls forward Jordan Morrison, a native of Uxbridge, Ontario — loving the game early on was more about being a part of a Canadian past time.
“As a Canadian kid, you have it all around you, it’s ingrained in the culture so that’s how I got into it. Older cousins, your father plays hockey, it’s a natural progression. When I was a young boy, I played with my friends in a small town, my Dad was a coach and that’s how it began.”
Growing up hockey can forge many memories in your mind, memories that stay with you fondly throughout the levels of play. For many a player, teammates find themselves evolving into life-long friendships both on and off the ice.
“It’s the memories of getting to go to school with your best buddies growing up, heading to away tournaments and playing hockey in the hallways; all those things go into making you love the sport. The friendships you made are what it’s about.”
Of course learning from teammates and coaches on the ice are what helps to develop ones game, but spending countless hours watching NHL superstars at a young age, often helps drive the desire to become even more submerged in the game. For Morrison, it was a now legend that helped light the lamp on his hockey dreams.
“Pavel Bure was always my favorite player growing up, amazing to watch on the ice, great hand eye coordination. He’s called the ‘Russian Rocket’, he was a dynamic player in the NHL and I would have loved to skate a day with him.”
While Bure and friends held a piece of Morrison’s drive growing up, it was more importantly his family’s dedication to not only him, but his desire to play that is often at the forefront of his thoughts.
“A big part of anything you do is with your family in mind. Try to make your family proud, they put so much into it when you’re growing up and driving you to tournaments and getting you new skates every year, it’s not a cheap sport by any means. It always does well to make your family proud and do well for yourself. Think of it as a job, but do it for the right reasons.”
A solid sense of family and a strong work ethic are just a few components that have helped with Morrison’s success, it’s other things, simpler concepts that he’s mindful of.
“Try to be humble in whatever you do and work hard. You’re going to get out what you put into it. It probably sounds like a cliche but at the end of the day its true. I’ve been able to play pro hockey now for a few years. A lot of guys and friends back home say ‘I can’t believe you’re still doing it.’ I may not be in the NHL but I’m still getting paid to do something I love.”
Getting paid to play the game you love is a lofty goal for many, but those who succeed often find their start in the Ontario Hockey League. Similar to players both past and present, the OHL and the Peterborough Petes held a glove in the early stages of Morrisons’ career.
“It was the cornerstone for my development like it is for so many players that move on to play pro or go on to university hockey. You’re a sponge at that age, developing and growing into your body, learning your game. The four years I spent with them [Peterborough Petes] was a great time with a good coach and team. If you surround yourself with good players, you’ll grow.”
Of course, any player would love the opportunity to play forever. A long career on the ice is a dream that most hold, but the reality of the game is that it could all end tomorrow. The desire to succeed on the ice also translated to the classroom for the 27-year-old forward. Eventually a time will come when you must hang up the skates, and Morrison has a fall back degree in anthropology and international development studies.
“I graduated from Dalhousie, I went right after my 19-year-old year in junior. I decided not to sign a pro contract, I figured a degree is always something you should have in your back pocket. As far as my future goes, I’m hoping to finish my career off, maybe get some more schooling in before I retire. You can’t play hockey forever and you can’t foresee injuries, so I thought it was a smart idea to have a backup play when your body starts to fall apart from years of getting hit in the game.”
A degree is an accomplishment in and of itself, but it’s what Morrison has interest in doing with it that shines even brighter.
“At the end of the day, I’d like to get into something like the organization Right to Play, they use sports as a tool for development and that’s kind of where anthropology and international development intersect. Just to get involved in an organization, I’ve played sports for so long, so if I can do that to help people better their lives as well, that’s something that I’d be interested in doing after hockey.”
For now, the success is hockey based and a few of his greatest memories stem from the earliest part of his career.
“There’s always little accomplishments along the way, first you get drafted to the OHL, drafted to the NHL. I won a championship in Peterborough. A great group of guys there and it always impacts your life when you have a successful year, I keep in touch with that group of guys. Your first pro game, I think my most memorable time would be that year in Peterborough.”
Bulls fans have grown to love Morrison both on and off the ice and while playing for the organization had been a positive one, Morrison opted to try a different league before the ECHL season started. Taking an adventure to Kazakhstan, with friend and fellow player Dean Ouellet was a short lived experience.
“It was a different experience in Kazakhstan, I went over there with a good buddy of mine, Dean Ouellet. We got an offer we couldn’t refuse and decided to give it a go, and try it together. We knew if it didn’t work out, we could always come back here to North America. We went over there, it wasn’t our cup of tea. We didn’t see eye to eye on some things, plain and simple. San Francisco is a great place to play hockey and a great place to live. We liked our time here last year, we have a good team going into this year and we’re looking to expand on that. That’s what drove me back here. It’s a great city, great fans, there are so many positive factors here that make San Fran the best.”
With the season already underway, building on the successful components from years prior to fight for playoff contention is first and foremost.
“We have a fast skilled team with good puck moving defensemen, we are looking to make the team better from last year. The goal is to make it to the finals, but take it week by week and do the little things right everyday to get ourselves there to that ultimate goal.”
A hectic travel schedule is a common occurrence at the professional levels of play, days off are few and far between but when they present themselves Morrison easily finds ways to rest and refuel.
“Days off are all about letting the body rest, learning about the city, just basic things, grabbing a good meal.”
It’s easy to see the type of personality reflected on the ice, off of it is a side that many aren’t able to see.
“I’m an easy going guy, I like to keep to myself but I enjoy keeping things light.”
Keeping it light off the ice and turning up the heat on it has Morrison looking to build on the success he’s found thus far. With two goals and an assist to start the season, fans will hope to see this Canadian boy take no bull and help his team skate towards a chance at the Kelly Cup as the season progresses.