Texas Stars center Travis Morin
started this season guaranteed at least one new fan.
He and his wife, Lindsey, welcomed their first child, Andrew, into the world on Aug. 28.
"It's definitely nice to get home and see him when you come through the door," said Travis, 26. "You get a good smile."
Beyond that, Morin was guaranteed very little as a two-year ECHLer trying to land a job in the AHL. A few months later, Morin has a whole dressing room full of people perked up by his presence.
Morin has converted a hope and a prayer that he was ready for a promotion into cold, hard facts that support his cause. A tryout player in Texas to start the season, the AHL rookie now leads the team with 32 points (12-20) and rolled out of a January in which he ripped off 7 goals and 6 assists in 12 games.
"I thought in the past I could play and contribute in the AHL. For whatever reason, I didn't get a chance," he said. "I had confidence coming in here. It was just a matter of how things were going to turn."
They turned slowly, which at least was one thing that made Morin feel right at home.
During his draft year of 2004, for instance, he went out to play golf on selection day. While on the course, he got word that Washington decided to spend a pick on him - just barely. The Caps took him in the ninth round, 263rd overall.
Morin celebrated by finishing out his round.
"It was just a normal day for me," he said.
Morin played four years at Minnesota State-Mankato, then anchored the South Carolina Stingrays' offense his first two seasons pro with 34 goals and 50 assists his first season and 26-62 last year. He also proved himself as a showcase player, contributing 17 points in 20 playoff games in 2007-08 and then tugging the Stingrays to the Kelly Cup last year with a sparkling postseason of four goals and 18 assists.
"We didn't have a lot of superstars. As a group, we played together hard," he said of last year. "Those are experiences you can take with you when you move up. It (South Carolina) wasn't a bad place to be, but it wasn't where I wanted to be. I thought I'd get a chance after the two years I had down there. At least, I was hoping so."
The crossed fingers didn't do much good initially. Morin played just five games total in Hershey his first two seasons, and Washington let him go after last year.
Most of the summer passed very quietly in terms of job offers. Morin's family was about to grow, yet it looked like the same was not going to be true of his hockey career.
"In the back of your mind, you are worried about it a little bit, not knowing if you are going to play the whole year," he said.
The best that Morin could sniff out was a tryout offer from Texas. At the time, his modest goal of earning an AHL deal seemed about as far away as Austin is from his home in Minnesota.
"I knew I'd at least get a chance to show what I could do," he said. "It was really the only option. It's a business. I can understand where they are coming from. I haven't really proven myself here."
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan was slowly warming to Morin, though. He heard about Morin's scoring talents in the ECHL. He saw the potential for a different, although no less valuable, contributor to his team.
"We were looking for some depth at center. At camp, he didn't show great. But he was a smart player," Gulutzan said. "We kind of stuck with him. We knew he had a pedigree. We thought if we gave him an honest opportunity, he could run with it."
Meanwhile, Morin was juggling like he belonged in a circus. On the ice, he scrapped and hustled his way to more minutes. When he left the rink he tried to turn his cramped hotel room - where his wife and baby had joined him - into a home.
"It was stressful. But it was something me and my wife thought we had to do," Morin said of keeping everyone together.
A few games into the season, the Stars gave the Morin clan reason to find more suitable quarters. Texas had seen enough to switch Morin over to an AHL pact.
"He's positionally sound. He's attentive to details. We give him opportunities in all situations," Gulutzan said. "He puts pucks where they need to be (for his teammates) to be successful."
"He's positionally sound. He's attentive to details. We give him opportunities in all situations. He puts pucks where they need to be (for his teammates) to be successful." -- Texas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on Travis Morin
Morin's blend-in style makes him a natural Star. Although the team is just in the middle of the league pack in terms of scoring (2.88 goals per game) its attention to detail at both ends of the ice has it in the race for the top spot in the West Division.
"The whole team has the mentality of working hard. That's the way we have to win down here," Morin said. "That's one of the things that drew me to the team here."
It's an attraction that's working both ways, though Morin hasn't lost his grasp on the tenuousness of his situation.
"I'm just hoping the year continues to go as well as it's been going lately," he said. "Keep plugging away and hopefully get a chance to move up. I don't expect it to get any easier. I don't think in this line of business, (for) the majority of people, things don't come easy."
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