Getting to know: Kevin Morris
Addressing the need to add some size to his forward lines, Genting Casino Coventry Blaze Head Coach Danny Stewart’s latest recruit, Kevin Morris at 6’4” and 210lbs fits the bill nicely.
The Morris family has hockey in the blood. His father, Mark played college hockey for Colgate University and in the AHL with the New Haven Nighthawks. After his playing career, Morris Snr began a long and successful NCAA and professional coaching career, including spells with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, plus seven years leading the AHL’s Manchester Monarch’s where his son, Kevin would later end up.
His sister Emily, won two national championships with the University of Wisconsin, and his brother Mark played at SUNY Geneseo.
Kevin’s exposure to the game began at just three-weeks-old with his family taking him to college games, and he began playing structured hockey when he turned three.
With the sport all around him, he only ever aspired to a career in the game from a young age:
“Hockey holds a special place in my heart,” Morris told manchestermonarchs.com. “It’s taught me a lot of life lessons and it’s something we have been able to build our family structure around.”
Morris played high-school hockey at the prestigious Sailsbury Prep (2009-11), impressing with 30 points in 44 games as well as spending his senior year as Captain.
Despite his Father coaching the likes of Matt Moulson, Trevor Lewis and Jonathan Quick at the AHL’s Monarchs, Morris decided he wanted to become a self-proclaimed “rink rat”, seeking out players such as Rich Clune, Justin Johnson and Kevin Westgarth for one important skill.
“I used to be all buddy-buddy with the tough guys on the team because I wanted them to teach me how to fight,” Morris laughed.
After being drafted by the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the 4th round of the USHL draft (2011), Morris narrowed down his junior hockey career between going back to Manchester to play for the Junior Monarchs or heading to Iowa with the Fighting Saints.
“I realized that if I wanted to be the best, I had to go play with the best,” Morris said. “The USHL is the best junior hockey league in the world as far as the college route goes.”
Morris spent the 2011/12 season with the Fighting Saints, appearing in 50 games and registering 19 points. After his year in the USHL, Morris went on to fulfill his childhood dream of playing in college, and spent the next four years at Miami University in Ohio, a school he blindly committed to before visiting.
“So many people said good things about Miami,” Morris said. “From the day I got on campus, I was happy with my decision. I was in a class of 11 freshmen, which is a huge class for a college team. We went through a lot together and had some great seasons and then had some not so good seasons. Going through those things with that group of people helped build some strong relationships.”
One of those men was another new signing for the Blaze, Chris Joyaux, and the pair would enjoy a regular season Championship in their first year, and later a NCHC Championship.
Over the period of four years, the American forward would post 48 points (22+26) in 153 matches. He also made the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team and NCHC Scholar-Athlete Team in his sophomore and senior years with his coach of the time, Enrico Blasi saying:
“Kevin Morris is an outstanding teammate and an integral part of our team, who has really increased his offensive production throughout his time with us.”
Following graduation, Morris would follow in his Father’s footsteps lacing up for 6 games, scoring twice including on his pro debut with the Manchester Monarchs of now the ECHL. He would also ice two times with the AHL’s Binghampton Senators.
Due to his history and positive experience in Manchester, Kevin would re-join the Monarchs for his first full professional year and the family link with the city played a part:
“We talked about coming to Manchester, and Dad is excited about me being back in the city. He made some great relationships here in Manchester, and it’s a special spot for our family. This is my starting position for pro hockey. I weighed the pros and cons of going somewhere else and nothing outweighed continuing my career here in Manchester to build my game and ultimately get on to the American League.”
He would go on to have a strong rookie season in the ECHL scoring 16 goals with 20 assists and appeared in two games for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
Off the ice Morris would be busy too, setting up a website named, ‘The Numbers Game’ akin to the popular ‘Players’ Tribune’ but in his words, “The Numbers Game tells the story, from a first-person perspective, of kind of the truth about these people’s come-up. Whether they’re a player, an athlete, a coach, a general manager, a scout, someone who sharpens the skates, an equipment manager… it’s sort of a comprehensive look inside the heads of people who pursue a professional sport. I think that’s what differentiates me from something like the Players’ Tribune. Don’t get me wrong, it’s unbelievable, I enjoy reading their stuff. But they’re sole focus is on the athlete, primarily the all-star athlete or superstars.”
Read more about ‘The Numbers Game’ in this excellent interview with Kevin by TheSinBin.net.
Follow ‘The Numbers Game’ on Twitter @TNGsocial
As well as becoming a positive influence online, Morris also took part in many community activities saying, “It’s important for us to be more than hockey players. I understand how important it is to the people around this area for us to contribute as social influences in the community and do our part to help out as much as possible.”
After posting 9 points in the Kelly Cup Playoffs (5 goals, 4 assists), despite a passion to still pursue the AHL, Morris’s love for the city and organisation led him to once again pull on the Black and Silver of the Manchester Monarchs for the 2017/18 campaign.
Before that though, he decided to spend the summer alongside NHL and KHL players training with noted Anaheim Ducks Assistant Strength Coach Justin Roethlingshoefer at The Hockey Summit in Estero, Florida.
“Everything from a training, recovery, competition, nutrition, supplementation and living standpoint was provided, and it is all first class,” said Morris. “My baseline performance was scientifically measured and tracked. I was amazed at how much I improved, and I look to take what I have learned, as well as my improvement, into my second full professional season.”
In his second ECHL season with an A on his chest, the rugged winger added a further 12 goals, 15 assists to his tally which reads in total for ECHL regular and post-season games, 137 played, 37 goals, 42 assists equalling 79 points.
Another AHL call up would see Morris join the familiar surroundings of Binghampton, NY, playing 12 games for the Devils posting 2 assists. Returning to Manchester for the post-season Morris would again excel in the playoffs registering 5 points in 8 games (2 goals, 3 assists).
With an opportunity to pursue a masters at Coventry University too good to turn down, Morris has moved on from his AHL dream for the current season, instead turning his attention to Europe and the UK with Coventry.
When asked to sum up how he plays the game Morris modestly told Matt Johnson of aptrainingsystems.com:
“I know I’m not a flashy player, as most of my goals will be greasy ones from the front of the net, but I take pride in doing the little things that make a team successful. If I can play smart and hard, hopefully things will fall into place. I take pride in special teams whether it’s killing penalties or if I’m on the power play, sitting in front of the net and taking beatings. I understand there are different roles on a hockey team, so whatever role I’m in, I try to do it to the best of my ability.”