March 18, 2016
It is often a dream come true for every young hockey player to one day meet their idol.
Brenden Morrow got to play with his.
Morrow grew up in the hard-working farming town of Carlyle, Saskatchewan with posters of Brett Hull all over the walls in his room. He had a VHS tape called "Top Gun" highlighting Hull's 86 goal season which he would watch over and over again.
Morrow would get to play with Hull in Dallas. And while Morrow became one of the top players in the National Hockey League, too, he never scored goals like the Hall of Famer Hull did.
Never the fastest or the biggest winger, Morrow became an impact power forward based largely on determination. He was devastating body checker, thanks to the stocky forward's great balance on his skates. He was just as dedicated on the back check as he was o the forecheck.
“I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but I need to have that physical element in my game to be effective,” said Morrow. “You can’t let up in this league for a second and that’s how I approach each game.”
"I remember him coming to training camp in 1999," said Bob Gainey, the Stars' GM at the time. "And he wasn't supposed to be in our plans at the NHL level for another year or so, but he did everything we asked of him. Brenden was this kid that wouldn't take no for an answer. We kept giving him more responsibilities, thinking he would eventually fail and then we could send him down. But he forced us to keep him with his dogged determination.
"I want all of the important minutes -- on the power play, penalty-killing and at the end of each period," Morrow said. "I want the responsibility of a leader on this team."
Offensively Morrow was an underrated stickhandler with a creative side shadow by his edgy game. He would never be confused with Brett Hull based on his shot and goal scoring production. Morrow rambunctiously crashed the slot, creating havoc and looking for loose pucks. And it worked, twice topping the 30 goal mark and regularly being a 20 goal threat.
“The toughest part about being in the NHL is the scoring. The goalies are excellent and some of the systems don’t make it easy to put the puck in the net. The one thing that helps you to be successful is being patient. It also helps to have such great offensive players to motivate me.”
But what was the real key to Morrow's game?
“It always comes back to having fun,” said Morrow. “You can play as hard as you want, but the bottom line is that you have to enjoy yourself. You can never lose sight of that.”
Now that sounds like Brett Hull's influence.
Another influential player in Morrow's career was Guy Carbonneau.
As a rookie in 1999, Morrow was Carbonneau's linemate. Carbo would guide the youngster on and off the ice, often inviting him over for family dinners. Morrow would end up dating and then marrying Carbonneau's daughter, Anne-Marie.
"I remember hearing Guy say many times that the difference between being good and being a champion is being willing to make that extra effort," Morrow said. "Think about it, you only get a few chances in life to play in the Stanley Cup Finals and I wasn't going to let a little pain get in my way."
That attitude helped Morrow to one of the best careers of his generation. A Memorial Cup championship in 1999, a Stanley Cup championship in 2000, World Cup and World Championships victories in 2004 and the Olympic gold medal in 2010 are all on his resume.
He will go down as one of the best players in Dallas Stars history and one of the best competitors of any era.
“I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish with the Stars and how I represented the franchise,” Morrow wrote in The Players' Tribune. “Giving me the honor of being the captain of the team is something that I’ll always be thankful for. I never took that responsibility for granted.”
In 991 career games he scored 265 goals, 310 assist for 575 points. He finished his career with brief stops in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.