Jets respecting Byfuglien's privacy during leave of absence
"I miss seeing him every day at the rink." -Morrisseyby Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com
WINNIPEG - While Dustin Byfuglien's personal leave of absence continues, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice is making sure his privacy is respected.
"There have been a number of open lines of communication," Maurice said regarding if there has been any contact with Byfuglien since the start of camp.
Training camp opened less than a week ago and while Josh Morrissey and his teammates all respect their teammate's privacy during the process, they do miss Byfuglien's demeanor on and off the ice.
"I miss seeing him every day at the rink. He's an awesome guy. He keeps it light and keeps it fun," said Morrissey. "He and I have developed a cool relationship over the last few years. He was one of the big reasons for me stepping in when I first got into the league and over the years, we've become good friends. I miss seeing him every day and would love to have him back."
Morrissey played his first NHL game during the 2015-16 season and for much of his early career - especially during the 2016-17 season - paired with Byfuglien on the blue line.
Maurice later told the story that Byfuglien asked to be paired with the young Morrissey, something that has really stuck with the now 24-year-old defenceman.
"I remember countless times in the preseason and into the regular season, we got scored on and you come off the ice and you get a big hug from Buff or the arm over the shoulder - it almost knocked me off the bench basically because he's so big," Morrissey smiled. "He just said 'welcome to the NHL. You've finally got scored on, now you can just go play.' It's true. In your NHL career you're going to get scored on.
"Just things like that and having fun every day on the ice, in the game. Whether it's yelling at guys on our team or the other team and keeping it fun. He really helped me feel relaxed and calm coming in."
With those lessons learned from Byfuglien, Morrissey is now trusted to go up against the opposition's best, night in and night out.
But that early confidence he gained from the veteran Byfuglien sticks with him every day.
"When you're coming in and you have a guy who has won a Stanley Cup, who has been in the league - for I don't know how long it was at that point - and has been a top player for a long time, say 'I want to play with you. I want to help you get acclimatized, get into the league, and feel comfortable.' It means the world," he said. "It's a weight off your shoulders as a young player."
The team knows all they can do is wait. The one thing they won't do though is comment publicly about Byfuglien's leave of absence.
"Everyone knows the type of player he is and what he means to our team," said Morrissey. "We'd love to have him, obviously. But at the same time, I totally respect whatever he has to do. It's a private matter and I'll leave it at that."