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4B W yApr.6,2011 / The Statement
Wedesay- Ari 6 211//Th -Satmet B
BRENDAN MORRISON'S LASTING
BY MARK BURNS
OF EMBODYING MICHIGAN
e was a betting man. There was no getting around that. When he
arrived at the office, he threw everything on the table.
The stakes were always high because that's how he wanted
them to be. It didn't matter if he was competing in an exhibition
contest or playing in the 1996 NCAA national title game against Colorado
He put the pressure on himself to perform.
Except he wasn't betting with chips like people normally do.
No, he bet using the tools of the trade - he bet on himself.
The soft wrister that couldn't break a pane of glass. The not-so-pretty
stride that couldn't beat some opposing players in a footrace. The physical
presence that couldn't intimidate an eighth grader.
None of it mattered. It didn't matter that he wasn't exceptionally gifted in
any of those facets of the game.
The expectations of Brendan Morrison were high because coach Red
Berenson demanded more.
"(Morrison's) expectations were he was going to be a leading scorer,"
Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers said. "He was going to be a point pro-
ducer. He wanted to be on the ice at the pivotal 5-on-5 shift where we needed
"His expectations have always been, 'I'm going to get the goal or make the
play that's going to help us."'
He came to the rink everyday with his pockets turned up-and an empty
wallet for four seasons. He was all in, all the time.
For four years, former Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison was a
household name at 1016 South State St.
"When he needed to perform, and when the chips were on the table, his
game was unbelievable," former teammate and linemate Bill Muckalt said.
Everyday Brendan Morrison was cashing in on one ofthe most successful
careers in Michigan hockey history..
Billy Powers had his eyes fixed on the "Brendan Morrison Shrine" in the
Michigan hockey coaches' lounge.
Fifteen seconds had slowly come andgone.
The Hobey Baker award along with a shadowbox housing Morrison's No.
9 Michigan jersey sit along one of the walls. Two pictures of Morrison - one
by himself on the ice and another with him alongside Berenson accepting the
Hobey Baker in 1997 - complete the mural.
It had been a half-minute since I asked Powers the final question of our
10-minute interview: How would you sum up Brendan Morrison in one word,
phrase or sentence?
Every 10 seconds, Powers's eyes diverted from the television to the shrine.
Finally, he couldn't remove himself from the tribute to Morrison - evidence
of a coach perplexed by the impact of a player who accomplished more than
any other Wolverine during his collegiate career.
The constant stare toward the shrine was evident of a coach perplexed
by the impact one player had on the program, of a player who accomplished
more than any other
Wolverine during his
- Of a player who
was impossible to
c describe in a few
measly words almost
15 years after his exit
from Yost Ice Arena.
A full minute.
Still, no response
from Powers, and
as I waited, the
- 0 other answers I had
received from the
exact same question
came to mind.
"Brendan was just a first-class human being," Michigan associate coach
Mel Pearson said. "If you had a mold of a type of kid, not only for Michigan
hockey, but asa Michigan athlete, he'd be it."
"First class," equipment manager Ian Hume iterated.
"He was a class act," said 1994 graduate and former teammate Brian
One hundred andfive seconds.
Powers finally had an
answer to a complex ques-
tion that had already been
easy for some and harder
His answer wasn't sur-
prising in the least bit -
instead, it was expected.
"Classy," Powers said.
"That's how I'd describe
People associated with
the program realized the
special character Morrison exhibited during his stay at Michigan.
His exceptional play and off-ice demeanor demanded respect.
On March 30, 1996, following the Wolverines' victory over
Colorado College in the NCAA title game, fans at the Riverfront
Coliseum were all witnesses to what Berenson and the Michigan
coaching staff already knew for quite some time.
This kid was special, damn special, and unlike any player that
had come through the program during Berenson's career.
As if on cue, and having the No.1 label attached to him and the
program in Cincinnati, Ohio, Morrison finally declared in front of
everybody, "This is for all the (Michigan) guys who never had a
chance to win it."
He had just scored the game-winning tally - a wide-open goal on Tiger
goaltender Ryan Bach and arguably one of the easiest goals of his career - to
clinch Michigan's eighth national championship.
And all he could think about was the past.
The Wolverines' failures in the NCAA Tournament. The overtime losses.
Former Wolverines like Mike Knuble, David Harlock and Aaron Ward,
who preceded Morrison and didn't have the fortunate opportunity to win a
national title - this was for them.
The program's 32-year championship drought was over, and Morrison
knew who he had scored for.
"He put that moment - that was a special moment for him - but he had
the wherewithal to acknowledge those people that fell a little short who
came before him," Wiseman said. "That says it all about the kind of guy he is."
Even to this day, Morrison is in a class all by himself.
"He epitomizes the Michigan hockey program," Berenson said. "If you
met him, you would have thought he was a fourth-line player."
Morrison had just witnessed a few hockey games, a gymnastics meet and
the infamous Fab Five during his first recruiting trip to Ann Arbor.
He was "blown away by the atmosphere and the whole magnitude of
But that was all before he stepped
into the office of Berenson, the
ambassador who started the pattern
of college players making the transi-
tion to the National Hockey League.
Needless to say, the extracurric-
ular activities were an afterthought
following the meeting with the for-
mer NHL Coach of the Year.
"I guess you could say I went
through the ringer with him a lit-
S_- tle bit," Morrison now jokes. "He
doesn't beat around the bush at all.
HOBEY J He tells you the way things are,
EM AI and I have a tremendous amount
of respect for him because of that
While some coaches reverted
to wining and dining potential
recruits, Berenson flipped the equa-
tion, asking hopeful Wolverines
what they could do for Michigan.
Once fall rolled around for the
start of the 1993-1994 campaign, in
walked a boyish 18-year-old Morri-
son, and Berenson soon found out what the Pitt Meadows, British Columbia
native was going to do for the program - and him.
For associate coach Mel Pearson, he had seen similar versions of Morri-
son, who looked more like he should be entering high school rather than the
University of Michigan.
"He had that look to him, he just looked so young," Pearson said of Mor-
rison. "He looked like he was 12-years old, and he shouldn't be in college."
Regardless of how he mightnotchave been able to grow a modern prototyp-
ical-Matt Rust beard in a week, it
was Morrison's on-ice presence
that really caught the attention
of the Michigan coaching staff, as
well as teammates such as Wise-
"We were in awe in regards
to his talent level coming in as a
freshman," Wiseman said of his
first impressions of Morrison. - '
"You knew he had somethingspe-
cial that we were going to see at
some point in time in his career."
Wiseman and other seniors
like goaltender Steve Shieldswere
overwhelmed by the freshman's
abilities. Morrison's uncanny
knack for locating teammates on the ice was a quality uncharacteristic of
players so young in their Division-I career.
But everything Morrison accomplished was expected of him, even if he
was only a freshman.
Morrison had a dynamic '92 campaign with the*British Columbia Hockey
League's Penticton Panthers, with whom he tallied 35 goals and 59 assists.
"He came in with a lot of accolades, and it wasn't too long before every-
body knew that he was as good as advertised," Hume said.
Michigan was just fortunate enough he made the decision to eventually
open an account in Ann Arbor.
Brendan Morrison would wait, wait and wait some more. He'd hold onto
the puck for as long he could until finally pulling the trigger and making a
crisp cross-ice pass heading out of the zone.
But it wouldn't be without raising coach Red Berenson's blood pressure a
few notches, the 27-year coach jokes years later.
"We'd be on the bench. 'Move it, move it,' " Berenson remembered. "And
he would be holding it, and then he'd make a great play. Then you'd say, 'Well,
what a great play.' In the meantime, he'd have you on the edge of your seat."
Assistant coaches Mel Pearson and Billy Powers both dubbed Morrison
arguably the smartest player they've seen come through the program.
"When a game started, he had a magical way about him where he could
make things happen on the ice," Pearson said.
But the magic started long before Morrison even touched the ice.
It started in the locker room before the game, with the mental preparation
and the visualization of what plays he was going to execute.
It began at a young age when Morrison started playing organized hock-
See MORRISON, Page 8B
TO READ MORE ABOUT BRENDAN MORRISON AND WHERE HE IS TODAY, GO TO MICHIGANDAILY.COM/THE-STATEMENT
PHOTOS BY'MARISSA MCCLAIN/Daily