VANCOUVER – Brendan Morrison went on a fishing trip and landed a chance at a Stanley Cup.
As a result, Morrison will play his first game for the Chicago Blackhawks as they visit the Vancouver Canucks in an important Western Conference matchup.
“It was a little shocking at first,” said Morrison, 36, of a trade that brought him to the Blackhawks from Calgary. “But once I’ve had a few days to digest it here, I’m excited.”
The 14-year veteran centre was passing through Long Beach, B.C., on his way back from a day of fishing during the all-star break, when he received a call from Calgary general manager Jay Feaster telling him the Flames had traded him to the Blackhawks.
Now, with his NHL career winding down and the Flames looking like a playoff also-ran, he gets an opportunity to try and sip champagne from the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career.
Morrison has gone no further than the second round of the playoffs, on two occasions.
“As far as chances go and what’s been presented, this is as good a chance as I’ve probably seen,” said Morrison, 36.
He is expected to play a key role immediately as the Blackhawks (29-15-6) renew their rivalry with the Canucks (30-15-4). Both teams have 64 points and a chance to move within a point of conference leader Detroit.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was thinking about placing Morrison on the second line alongside sniper Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
“Nothing like getting thrown into the fire the first game,” said Morrison. “But it’ll be good. It’s gonna be a playoff atmosphere, a playoff-type game. Obviously, I haven’t played in the games the past few years between Vancouver and Chicago, but it’s pretty well documented the last three years here in the playoffs what’s happened.”
The Canucks eliminated the Blackhawks in the first round last spring en route to qualifying for the Stanley Cup finals. The year before, eventual champion Chicago ousted Vancouver for the second straight post-season.
Morrison gets his unexpected chance at a Cup after he became an extra part with the Flames. Calgary did not plan to re-sign him when his contract expired at the end of this season and wanted to get something, which turned out to be minor-league defenceman Brian Connelly, for him.
Prior to the deal, Morrison was a frequent scratch. The former NHL ironman has been limited to 28 games this season because of a sore knee that stemmed from a season-ending injury last March in a game against the Blackhawks. He mustered a modest four goals and seven assists with the Flames, who signed him at the outset of last season after he failed to stick with the Canucks on a pre-season tryout for what would have been his second go-round with Vancouver.
“I’m nervous,” said Morrison. “It’s kind of like your first day in the NHL, almost, coming here.”
Morrison, a native of the Vancouver suburb of Pitt Meadows, B.C., is not looking beyond this season. But he still believes that he can offer something to the Blackhawks. He is confident that he can provide strong leadership and reproduce some of the offensive output with Hossa and Sharpe that he generated with Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi with the Canucks, Jarome Iginla with the Flames and, albeit briefly, Alex Ovechkin with Washington.
“I feel I can still be a guy that can contribute,” said Morrison. “I know I’m not a guy who’s going to be expected to carry the load by any means. But if I can add anything to the mix, that’s what I’m here to do.”
There was little love lost between Morrison and the Blackhawks when he suffered his knee injury while playing for the Flames against him last spring. Morrison said Chicago players taunted him from their bench as he was being helped off the ice, and he accused them of being unprofessional.
However, the player who made the comments is no longer with Chicago, and Morrison has no qualms about playing on the same team as the player who hurt him, defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
“It’s time to move on, turn the page, whatever you want to say,” said Morrison.
As for that fateful fishing trip, Morrison caught one steelhead.
“I didn’t get skunked, but it wasn’t an overwhelming success, either,” said Morrison.
The trade has a chance to turn out better.