Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jim Morrison: One of the Best

The creation of an AHL Hall of Fame in 2006 allowed the League to recognize, honour and celebrate individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions specifically in the AHL.
-AHL Website-

On January 28, 2013, former National Hockey League defenceman, Jim Morrison, was inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. The event took place at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence at an 11:00am ceremony.

At a subsequent luncheon held on April 8, 2013, the NHL Oldtimers saluted Morrison and celebrated his accomplishment.

With Wanda Morrison looking on, Al Shaw kicked off the special lunch for Jim Morrison
George Storey recalled his friendship with Jim

The man-of-the-hour, Jim Morrison stands in front of a special gift given to him by the Storey family
No lunch would be complete without cake!

Jim Morrison began his junior career in 1949 with the Verdun Maple Leafs of the QJHL. The following season, 1950-51, found Morrison in the Province of Ontario as a member of the OHA Barrie Flyers. He started out as a forward, but was converted to defence.

As George Storey pointed out in his keynote address at the NHL Oldtimers gathering, the '50-'51 Barrie Flyers were a powerhouse.

Always a threat on offence, the above scoring summary from November 1950, shows how easily Barrie could pour it on deep in the oppositions zone. In this contest against Stratford, Jim Morrison scored one goal and chipped in with three helpers.

In 53 regular season games, Morrison potted 19 goals and 39 assists for 58 points. When selections were made for the OHA Junior "A" All-Star Team, Morrison joined Frank Martin from St. Catharines on the blueline.

Prior to facing Jean Beliveau and the Quebec Citadels in the Eastern Canada Junior Hockey Final, a local newspaper examined the different components which made Barrie click.

"There's Real Chevrefils, selected All-Star left winger of the league, and as shifty a bit of hockey machinery as you'll see anywhere," began the assessment.

"He's flanked by Leo Labine, who can take care of himself in any type of going. With tricky Jack White at centre, this line is no pushover for any team." Also noted for their contributions, were Jerry Toppazzini, Bill Hagan, Don Emms, and Doug Towers.

When it came to Jim Morrison, little was left to the imagination regarding his importance.

"Morrison is a field general as well as a top rearguard," praised the piece of Morrison's skill and hockey sense to take command and dictate the flow of a game.
From Left to Right: Jerry Toppazzini, Jim Morrison, Leo Labine, and Bill Hagan

Barrie went on to win the Memorial Cup with Morrison accumulating 12 points in 11 games.

In a Hockey News interview conducted following the 1956-57 season, Morrison commented on his time with the Barrie Flyers.

"That was the most exciting episode of my career," he told reporter Margaret Scott. "I've had a number of coaches but I'll always feel particularly grateful to Hap Emms." Morrison added, "I was really green when he got me...and everything he taught me stood me in good stead in the NHL."

Property of the Boston Bruins, Morrison was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 9, 1952 in exchange for Fleming Mackell. Starting in 1952-53, Morrison spent the next six seasons with the Maple Leafs.

Toronto's interest in Morrison stemmed from the fact they thought he could be used as a forward. During his time in Boston, he lined up on defence. Under Pittsburgh Hornets (AHL) coach, King Clancy, Morrison was employed as a centre.

When the Leafs summoned Morrison, he found himself at left wing on a line with Max Bentley and George Armstrong.

"A short time later Gus Mortson was injured and they needed me on defence so I was paired with Thomson (Jimmy). I've been on the blueline ever since," stated Morrison to The Hockey News.

Noted for his smooth skating, puck handling, and play making skills, Morrison had to adjust his game when the Leafs put him on a leash. Rushes beyond centre ice were frowned on and such action resulted in fines. A player of Morrison's calibre in this regard could end up in the poor house if he didn't follow the demands of his coach.

He scored his first National Hockey League goal on November 2, 1952. The Leafs were in Detroit for a tilt against the Red Wings. His tally came at the 17:40 mark of the opening frame.

"Morrison's first goal of his NHL career was from the blueline." noted a game story in The Globe and Mail. "Red Kelly, standing in front of Sawchuk, tried to stop the low shot, but merely succeeded in topping it so that it ducked under Terry's extended hand."

Along the way with Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York, and Pittsburgh, Morrison scored 40 NHL goals in 704 games. He skated in NHL All-Star Games in 1955, 1956, and 1957.

In addition to establishing a living in hockey, Morrison hit the jackpot off the ice.

In the spring of 1957, Morrison and Wanda O'Halloran were married in Montreal. The couple met three years earlier when a friend invited Morrison to a company gathering. At the dance, Morrison was introduced to Wanda.

"I can't say Wanda was much of a hockey fan when I first met her," stated Morrison back in 1957. "But she sure was a red hot football follower,"

Upon becoming engaged to Jim, Wanda became a fan.

"Having a personal interest in the game, Wanda lent the same enthusiasm to hockey, and was a regular patron at the Forum for Leaf-Canadien tilts where she fearlessly defied hot blooded Habitan fans to root for Toronto's Leafs," wrote Scott.

Boston reacquired Morrison for their 1958-59 campaign, sending defenceman Alan Stanley to Toronto. After one year in Boston, his next two seasons were spent with the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers.

In 1961-62, Jim Morrison began a stretch of seven seasons in the American Hockey League with the Quebec Aces. During this run, he was named to the Second All-Star Team five times and to the First All-Star Team once. In 1966, he won the Eddie Shore Award as the outstanding defenceman in the AHL.

Morrison joined the Baltimore Clippers in 1968-69 and earned another selection to the Second All-Star Team.

NHL expansion in 1967 allowed Morrison to once again dip his skates into the NHL pool. In October 1969, he exchanged his Clippers jersey for a Penguins sweater.

He finished out his playing days in 1972-73.  After two years with Pittsburgh, Morrison returned to Baltimore and added another Second All-Star Team selection to his resume in '71-'72.

A Hall of Fame career by any standard.

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