March 01, 2013

Remembering Jim Morrison

No. Not that Jim Morrison. This Jim Morrison - he of more than 700 NHL games mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1950s. recently caught up with Jim:
During his hockey career, including seven seasons as a defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Morrison skated in famed arenas such as Maple Leaf Gardens, Boston Gardens, the Olympia, Madison Square Gardens, Chicago Stadium and the Montreal Forum.

He skated with and against the likes of Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, George Armstrong, Johnny Bower, Andy Bathgate and Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard.

"Defending against the Rocket was tough," the 81 year old said. "He was like a bull. He'd barrel through guys, whereas Howe was strong, but skating around you with finesse."
You can read the full story here.

Morrison likely would have played well over 1000 NHL games but he had the misfortune of playing in the last decade of the Original Six. The defenseman spent most of the 1960s in the AHL where he was a stand out. He was named to six consecutive AHL post-season All Star Teams, and seven in eight years total. In 1966 he was named as the Eddie Shore Trophy winner as the best defenseman in the AHL.

Had there been more than 6 teams in the NHL at the time, Morrison certainly would have extended his NHL career by another 8 years. As it is, Morrison finally returned to the NHL with the fledgling Pittsburgh Penguins in 1969. He played two seasons before returning to the AHL as a playing coach.

According to the article mentioned above, those were fun times for Morrison, but certainly not lucrative times:
During his playing days, Morrison said AHL players topped out at $4,000 salary per year, while the elite NHLers made close to $12,000 a year -- a far stretch from the $12.7 million Sidney Crosby makes as the top-paid NHL player today, including endorsements.

During the off-season months, Morrison spent time delivering furniture for Eaton's and installing fire sprinklers just to make ends meet.

"We played a little poker on the trains between cities too," Morrison said.
Morrison spent most of the 1970s as a junior head coach with Kingston and Kitchener of the OHL. He went on to scout for the Boston Bruins until he was 70 years old before retiring.

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