The “C” is for courage and competitiveness. Someday the capital letter stitched to the Dallas Stars
sweater will stand for nothing less than champion when you're talking about Brenden Morrow
Morrow is just 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, but still he’s like a Chuck Norris clone, smiling one second, beating the daylights out of you the next.
On this night in early May in Dallas, the 29-year-old captain of the Stars played like the warrior he's become in eight short seasons since breaking in with the Stars in 2000.
Back at the turn of the century, Morrow made the team when no one thought it was possible for a rookie. Eight years later, in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks
, Morrow played 51 minutes, had seven shots, a record 19 hits and, oh yeah, also scored the series-clinching goal 9:03 into the fourth overtime for a 2-1 triumph.
Big hits and big plays -- impact plays -- have become Morrow's trademark. And many of his hits change the direction of a game -- like the one that ended regulation in Game 6, when Brenden threw his entire body into Milan Michalek
, sending the 24 goal-scorer in the regular season to the sidelines with a shoulder injury. Morrow may not be built like Brian Urlacher or Ray Lewis, but he hits and plays like those ferociously competitive linebackers.
"I don't know about all of that," Morrow said. "I do know that a big hit makes you, and everyone out there with you, see the game a little differently. You go along and everyone is playing and everyone looks the same. Then, all of a sudden, you see someone just paste a guy. It's a shock to your system. A good shock if it's your hit. Your heart stops for a minute if it's one of your guys who gets hit."
A few minutes with Morrow makes you think there’s more to him than his choirboy look. He's clearly a warrior, a throwback to when hockey players would play for the fun of it.
Morrow creates a presence on the ice. Impact follows him around, never more than in this year's playoffs. It's more of Morrow being Morrow.
Of his seven playoff goals, the last two have come in overtime. Winning a game in four overtimes is the stuff that makes legends.
"I don't know what more I can say about Brenden," Stars coach Dave Tippett
said. "This is all about Brenden Morrow
's evolution. Right now, he's a factor in every game. He's a catalyst, an example for everyone to follow.
"It's amazing how hard he plays. He has such a purpose on every shift. He's always had a high-compete level -- and now he's pushing his level of play each and every game."
Morrow isn't calm and calculating; rather he's confident and courageous. After eliminating the Sharks, he was beaming.
"Am I tired? Not tonight. Ask me tomorrow," he said after sending the Stars to the Western Conference Finals against the Detroit Red Wings
Chip on his shoulder? You bet. But Morrow likes proving people wrong. It makes him smile
The smile was firmly plastered to his face after Stephane Robidas
sent a sharp pass across the goal crease that Morrow tipped past Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
, with the Stars on a power play midway through the fourth overtime of Game 6.
"How could it be more fitting than to see Marty Turco
stop 60-something shots and get the win and Brenden Morrow
get the winning goal?" Tippett added. "Before the game I asked every player to give 5-10 percent more. For Brenden, that's off the charts, because he already gives about 150 percent of himself each game."
There might have been a time, back when this youngster saw the Dallas “C” passed from Derian Hatcher
to Mike Modano
to him, where Morrow wondered if all the Stars' veterans were OK with him being named captain. No more. Morrow has grown into the role. He's learned to harness his intensity, control the inner demons that make him such a competitor.
"He's our captain, he's our leader," Turco said. "He's the sparkplug every team dreams of. He'll stand up to anybody, hit anybody. He's emotional, but he keeps it in check, where the team can feed off it."
"He initiates all over the ice. He infuriates the opponents with the impact he plays with," Modano said. "He's an inspiration to us."
When push comes to shove, when grit gravitates to snarl and competitors don't drop their gloves, but simply bring even more energy and thump, you know it's playoff time ... Morrow time.