A homecoming for a hometown hero
Pitt Meadows’ favourite son is coming home this weekend.
NHL player Brendan Morrison will be on-hand at Pitt Meadows Arena on Saturday morning for the unveiling of a statue carved in his honour, commemorating his long and successful hockey career.
But for Morrison, this trip back home is a chance for him to say thank you to the people who’ve helped him along the way, and to the town that supported him his entire hockey career.
“I’ve always taken a lot of pride being from Pitt Meadows, and I’ve always had a lot of support from my home town,” he says, while on a rest stop in Salmon Arm, during the drive from his family’s home in Calgary to Pitt Meadows.
“So many pople influenced me and helped me get to where I am, I’m really thankful and humbled by all of this.”
As a play-making centre, Morrison tallied more than 30 assists in a season nine times in his NHL career. After 934 games in the NHL, Morrision has racked up an 200 goals and 401 assists.
There have been many highs in his hockey career.
In 1996, he won an NCAA championship with the University of Michigan Wolverines, and was named tournament MVP.
In 1997, he won the NCAA’s Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate hockey player in the U.S.
In 1998, he played his first game in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils.
In 2003, Morrison hit a career high in points (71) and goals scored (25).
In 2004, he won a gold medal at the World Championships of Hockey playing for Team Canada.
From 2000 to 2007, Morrison played 542 consecutive games, 11th all-time in NHL history.
But for Morrison, what sticks out most are the years he played for his hometown Vancouver Canucks as part of the West Coast Express line, alongside Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi.
“Playing in Vancouver really kick-started my career,” he says. “We had a lot of success, and to do all that in front of my family and friends, in my hometown, it was amazing.”
Since leaving the Canucks in 2008, Morrison has played for five clubs (Anaheim, Dallas, Washington, Calgary, and Chicago) in the past four years.
With free agency looming, the 36-year-old Morrison said he’s still not sure wether he will retire or not.
“I’ve been preparing to play this season,” he says. “If the right situation presents itself, then we’ll see. But I’ll have to see what offers are out there, and that might not happen until the end of the summer. It’s still early, so I may change my mind.”
Another season in the NHL could see him surpass the 1,000-game milestone, of which he is just 66 games shy.
However, one thing Morrison did rule out was a career in the broadcast booth. While sitting out an injury with the Vancouver Canucks in 2008, Morrison joined play-by-play broadcaster John Shorthouse as his colour man for a week of Canucks games.
“It’s never something I’ve really considered as a career,” he said. “If I’m not playing, I’d like to get a lot more involved in coaching my kids, and do a lot more fishing.”
Coaching at the professional level is something that doesn’t interest Morrison at the moment, either.
“Coaches spend more time at the rink than the players do, so I don’t think that’s fair to my family,” he said.
In recent weeks, Morrison has been heavily involved in the ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the NHL players’ union and owners, taking part in the first round of talks in Chicago last week.
Having gone through the negotiations that resulted in the 2004 lockout, Morrison’s experience, not to mention his business degree from the University of Michigan, will no doubt be an asset to his fellow players in this round of talks.
But while the second round of talks begins this week in New York, Morrison will instead be back home in Pitt Meadows for the unveiling his statue Saturday morning, presented by the Spirit of Wood Festival.
There’s always a few stops he makes when he comes back home, including a trip out to Pitt Lake.
“I’m sure I’ll drive by the old house, I spent hours every night in our cul-de-sac, playing on my rollerblades when I wasn’t at the rink.”
The statue will remain on display at the Pitt Meadows Arena, which wasn’t completed until 1992, the year Morrison left home to play for the Penticton Panthers of the junior A B.C. Hockey League.
But Morrison still has fond memories of the rink.
“When I was back from university in the summers, I would practice down there,” he said. “Some friends of mine worked for rink maintenance, so they would let me on the ice in the middle of the night.”
The sculpture itself was created by famed chainsaw artist Glenn Greensides. Greensides also crafted the Cam Neely sculpture at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge, and Morrison’s statue was carved from the same piece of wood.
To be in the same company as a hall-of-famer like Cam Neely is an honour, says Morrison.
“When I was first notified, I was surprised, excited and... humbled, would be the best way to describe it,” he says.
• The Brendan Morrison Spirit of Wood unveiling ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. at Pitt Meadows Arena. The event is open to the public and free to attend. Following the unveiling, Morrison will be on hand for a meet and greet with local hockey fans.