Morris signs with Monarchs
By MATT JOHNSON
Special to the Union Leader
Manchester Monarchs forward Kevin Morris knows what it’s like growing up in a hockey family. His first hockey experience was “watching” a Clarkson University men’s hockey game when he was 3 weeks old.
Hockey is in the Morris family blood. Morris’ sister won two national championships while playing at the University of Wisconsin, his brother played at SUNY Geneseo and his father, Mark, just happens to be the winningest coach in Monarchs franchise history.
“I had thoughts of playing for the Monarchs when I was growing up, but never really expected it to happen,” said Morris, 23. “So much about professional hockey is timing and luck, so you never know what team you’re going to end up on. It’s certainly a great experience to be here.”
Kevin’s’ dad led the Monarchs to eight consecutive winning seasons from 2006-14, before accepting an assistant coach position with the Florida Panthers in the National Hockey League. The elder Morris is now the head coach of the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) in the Carolina Hurricanes system, and the younger Morris now finds himself in familiar territory.
“I was telling some of the guys that I used to be the kind of coach’s son who would go wheel around the rink before practice,” Morris said. “I’d shoot on the goalies every once in a while as a young kid. Now that I’m a little older, it’s a cool feeling knowing that I’ve skated on the Verizon Wireless ice before.”
Morris’ path to the ECHL was not exactly what he had planned. After four seasons playing for Miami (Ohio) University, Morris had to weigh his options. A call from Monarchs head coach Rich Seeley sparked his interest to continue his hockey career, and on March 18, Morris sealed the deal.
“It was a pretty hectic week,” Morris said. “I got the call around 4 p.m. on Friday, hurried to pack, and drove 10 hours to get to Elmira, N.Y., to join the team. Playing in my first professional game was something I thought about for a long time, and although I was tired from driving, I played on adrenaline and had a lot of fun.”
Morris made his Monarchs debut count, scoring his first professional goal in his first professional game. While scoring the goal was a surreal feeling, it was the reaction of his teammates that Morris will always remember.
“I was fortunate to play with two great players (Maxim Kitsyn and Derek Arnold) in my first game,” Morris said. “The best part of the goal was that they were just as excited as I was. I saw somebody grab the puck for me out of the corner of my eye, and that’s what being a part of a team is all about. It’s fun when the other guys are just as excited for you as you are.”
The decision to sign with the Monarchs was a tough one, but Morris sought advice from his father along the way.
“We definitely talked about coming to Manchester, and dad is excited about me being back in the city,” Morris said. “Manchester is a comfortable place for me and my family. Manchester was good to us when dad was here. Being here gives me an exciting feeling.
“Dad tells me to go say hi to a bunch of people he knew at a certain restaurant or car dealership and things like that,” Morris said. “He made some great relationships here in Manchester, and it’s a special spot for our family. That was definitely part of the decision to come to Manchester.”
Morris is only four games into his professional career, and although he has learned first-hand that this isn’t college anymore, he already seems to know where he fits on the ice. He has two goals thus far.
“The guys are obviously bigger and faster at this level, but at the end of the day, it’s the same game I’ve grown up playing my whole life,” Morris said. “I know I’m not a flashy player, as most of my goals will be greasy ones from the front of the net, but I take pride in doing the little things that make a team successful. If I can play smart and hard, hopefully things will fall into place.”
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