DEER LAKE Brett Morrison had every intention of playing pro hockey in the East Coast Hockey League this winter, but he felt the climate just wasn’t right with the upheaval in the minor pro ranks with the ongoing NHL labour dispute.
He made a last-minute decision to stay at home and next thing you know he is packing his bags for Deer Lake where he will be make his home this winter while filling an import card with the Western Royals of the Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was just weighing my options,” Morrison said earlier this week from his new digs in Deer Lake. “I was thinking about going down to the East Coast Hockey League to play there for a year, but with the NHL lockout and people getting sent down from the AHL (American Hockey League) to the ECHL I figured it wouldn’t be the best year to start pro.”
Morrison was an offensive force with St. Francis Xavier of the Atlantic University Sport for the past four years, accumulating 111 points in 112 games with three 30-plus-goal campaigns. He also put up impressive numbers in four Quebec Major Junior Hockey League seasons, averaging better than a point a game with his most explosive season coming with the Gatineau Olympiques in 2005-2006 when he scored 33 goals and collected 39 assists in 64 games.
Western Royals defenceman Stephen Simms was a teammate of Morrison at St. F. X. so that connection opened the door for team president Ross Coates to make him an offer to join the team.
He got to meet his new teammates and got in a couple of skates at the team’s training camp last weekend.
“We had a couple of good practices and everyone looked good, and we had a scrimmage game Saturday night which was a pretty good game I thought,” he said. “I’m excited to get going this weekend and start the regular season games.”
It’s no secret the franchise struggled to create offence the past couple of years so the Royals hope Morrison will be the answer.
The 25-year-old, a native of Howie Centre, N.S., a tiny town just outside of Sydney, knows he will be counted on to produce numbers with his status as an import. But, he isn’t going to put any pressure on himself, choosing instead to use the skillset that made him a fifth-round (151st overall) draft pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
“I’m just going to get out there and help the team as much as I can,” he said. “I’m an offensive guy so I guess they’re looking me to do that, but if that’s not clicking then I’m just going to work as hard as I can and try to help the team win, which is my main concern right now.”
A look at his point production in previous leagues gives a good indication of his knack around the net, but what is interesting about the five-foot-11, 190-pounder is his unselfish nature. In his four AUS seasons, Morrison collected 76 assists, more than double his goal output.
“I like to set guys up. I am more of a playmaker I guess,” he said.
Morrison will take some time to get to know his new teammates, but he has already been filled in on the fan base in Deer Lake. He is aware that Deer Lake is a hockey town with vocal fans so he can’t wait to experience it first-hand.
“I’ve heard about how they love their hockey and they’ve sold quite a few tickets for this weekend’s games so I’m excited to start playing and see how the atmosphere is going to be,” he said.
The Western Royals clash with the defending champion Clarenville Caribous in the season opener tonight 7:30 p.m. at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex. Game 2 is set for Sunday 2 p.m. at the Hodder.