Brenden Morrow had a big smile on his face as he came down the runway and stepped onto the ice for the first time as a Pittsburgh Penguin this morning.
The grin didn’t leave his face as he skated around during warm-ups, nor when he was greeted with stick taps from his new teammates as coach Dan Bylsma welcomed him to the group as they huddled before practice began.
Morrow may be a veteran guy in his 13th NHL season, but this is the first time in his career that he’s debuting with a new team – and he’s both excited and nervous for what that entails.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “Not a whole lot of rest the last few days leading up to today. Had a good night’s sleep last night. Trying to get settled in and comfortable here. Everyone’s doing a good job.
“These jitters, these nerves, I had them riding to the rink yesterday. I hadn’t felt them in a long time. But those are good feelings. They’re not maybe the best feelings in your body, but you know you’re alive, you know you’re feeling something when those butterflies show up.”
It’s been a busy few days for Morrow since the trade went through on Sunday. Not only did he have to leave his family and life behind in Dallas and fly across the country to Pittsburgh; he had to get situated with his new team in so many different ways. It’s a lot to digest, as Bylsma discussed this morning, and the best way to deal with all that is just to jump right in tonight.
“I probably talked too much to him yesterday,” Bylsma admitted. “He probably didn’t hear a lot of what I said. I think he just wants to get on the ice right now and play for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s only been a Dallas Star and been a Dallas Star for a long time. He’s been a heart-and-soul guy. That’s a bit of a change. I think he’s pretty excited about playing for the Penguins, getting started here and with the opportunity he’s got here to play. So I’m really looking forward to seeing him step on the ice tonight and introduce himself as the kind of player he is to not only our team, but to the Penguins fans and maybe even a Canadien tonight.”
While Morrow said the way the Penguins play is obviously different from what he was used to in Dallas, he isn’t going to overthink anything.
“We’re hockey players,” he said. “It’s a game. Those details, some guys catch on quicker. We’ll just have to see. I went over them once; it was a long day for me yesterday. Hopefully some of it stuck in and I’ll remember it. But you just react when you’re on the ice. You’ve got those things in your head, but you just play hockey.”
Morrow feels the same way in terms of who his linemates will be this evening. He skated with former Stars teammate James Neal and Dustin Jeffrey in rushes this morning.
“I know James well,” Morrow said. “Played with him, know what he does. Dustin, not as much. That may take a little adjustment, but everyone just goes out. They drop the puck. You try and put it in the net. That’s hockey.”
After all, Morrow’s style is to be a physical, aggressive presence that’s tough around the front of the net and creates space for his teammates. That’s universal language that translates to the ice no matter what team a player is with.
“I know all the skill and talent this locker room has,” he said. “I think my job is just to drive to the front of the net with my stick on the ice and let things hit me. That makes things pretty easy.”