While the Coyotes have reshaped the franchise with a plethora of young players over the past few years, defenseman Derek Morris
has been one of the key veterans the team has relied upon to provide stability.
Morris, a 30-year-old alternate captain, hasn’t disappointed those who’ve entrusted him. His steady play and commitment to the team is evident in the number of games he has played since coming to Phoenix from Colorado in a trade near the end of the 2003-04 season.
Morris rarely misses games because of injuries. And those around the team on a daily basis can tell you that the number of games he has missed should be much higher but isn’t because Morris plays hurt. That’s just the way he is. After playing every game in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, Morris finally sat out a few games in November of this season because the coaching staff reasoned it was better for him to step back briefly and let some minor nagging injuries heal than to risk further serious injuries. When Morris missed the game on Nov. 22, 2008, it ended his streak of consecutive games played at 203.
“He’s a proven professional and we rely on him incredibly,” Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky said. “The good thing is that he knows that and that’s why he’s so committed to this team, and that’s also why he’s out on the ice on some occasions when other players might be taking nights off.”
|Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris (left) controls the puck ahead of Dallas Stars defenseman Doug Janik. (AP Photo) |
While Morris was not playing this season, he spent some time helping out the Coyotes Radio Network by providing analysis during its broadcast of the game against Columbus on Nov. 26. Using humor, Morris provided unique insight into the game from a defenseman’s perspective. While Morris enjoyed working as a radio analyst, he said it’s probably not a career he’d pursue after he retires from the NHL.
“It’s easy for me to joke around with those guys (on the air) … but I don’t think I could carry a whole game,” he said.
A more likely post-NHL career for Morris is coaching.
“I’d like to coach younger kids – bantam, pee-wee, midget – where I could be really influential and maybe teach kids the little things about the game that we all learned later and not at that age,” Morris said.
Regarding his retirement from hockey, Morris said he’d probably play five more years.
“My big thing is my kids,” said Morris, who has three sons, with the oldest son being nine years old. “They still think their dad is cool right now and every time I come home from a road trip, it’s special. Who knows how long that will last? So, I really want to spend time with them as they grow up. That’s the goal.”
Being around the multiple rookies and second-year players on the 2008-09 Coyotes has helped Morris recharge his NHL battery after 10 seasons.
“It’s been fun to have these young kids around,” Morris said. “They bring a different life and energy to the dressing room that you’re not used to. They’re exciting to watch. Every day they’re doing something new that I remember doing at that age. When I broke into the league, I had guys tell me to enjoy it because it goes by quickly and I laughed at them. But now I am realizing it does go by quickly.”
|Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris skates around Minnesota Wild forward Stephane Veilleux (AP Photo). |
Rookie Kyle Turris said he appreciates the way Morris has supported the younger players.
“He’s been a great leader to all of us,” Turris said. “We’re very lucky to have him around during this part of our careers. He sets a great example with his hard work and dedication.”
Morris has played in traditional hockey markets in Canada and the United States, but he likes the direction Arizona is heading when it comes to the sport he loves most. That’s one of the reasons why he and his family moved to the Valley three years ago.
“Everybody calls it a non-traditional hockey market, but my kids are playing hockey here now and I can tell you that the people who do play hockey here are passionate about it and they love it,” Morris said. “Hockey programs here are getting really good for young kids, so I do see hockey growing here in the Valley. It’s obviously not like it is in Canada, but remember, there are so many other things here competing with hockey.”
Yes, I’d like to stay here. I like the direction this team is going." - Derek Morris
Take baseball, for instance. Even Morris, who used to play center field when he was a kid growing up in Canada, finds himself sitting at an Arizona Diamondbacks game a few times during the summer months.
“Baseball has such a relaxed atmosphere to it,” Morris said. “I really admire that and the way the players interact with the fans during the game. Plus, it’s a complex game and it’s fun to learn it and watch it unfold on the field.”
Morris is an outdoors enthusiast. Fishing little-known lakes around Arizona has become one of his favorite hobbies. He also enjoys hunting elk, deer and moose.
“This is a good place for outdoor activities and not a lot of people know that,” Morris said.
|Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris battles Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik for the puck. (AP Photo). |
A lot of people also don’t know that Morris used to suffer from epileptic seizures when he was approaching his teenage years.
“I’ve been cured of it for years, but growing up I had seven or eight of them over a two-year period,” Morris said. “I’d have full fits and lose all control of my body and black out. Usually I’d have them just before I’d fall asleep and then I’d wake up kind of disoriented for a bit.”
Morris said he took medication called Tegratol to combat the seizures and that it worked well for him. Still, Morris has chosen the Epilepsy Association as his charity of choice.
“I’m glad I had it (epilepsy),” Morris said. “I didn’t know much about it when I was a kid and it was happening so I was embarrassed, but then I researched it and realized I wasn’t the only one who had them and that it was nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Morris is in the final year of a multi-year deal. He is hoping to re-sign with the Coyotes.
“Yes, I’d like to stay here,” Morris said. “I like the direction this team is going. The commitment here now is to winning, and that’s what every player wants to see.”