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Above the Glass

Hello Pittsburgh, this is Portland calling

I am off for a weeklong vacation in Vancouver and Victoria (Canada Day in the BC capital + free agent frenzy all over Canadian TV. What could be better?), but before I go I wanted to leave Pittsburgh fans with a few choice tidbits about one of my favorite Portland Winterhawks, Joe Morrow. Chosen 23rd overall by the Penguins, he’s got a deadly shot from the point, a good family upbringing, an eye for the net, and he’s not afraid to start a fight now and again. And that’s just for starters.

It’s a good thing all he’s shooting is a puck: Because Joe’s shots from the points are truly deadly. In terms of goals, that is. He’s laser-sharp and he rarely misses. And he’s pretty good in a shootout too. When I asked him about that diving move at the CHL Top Prospects Game he told me “It’s not the smartest move putting a defenseman in a shootout, so I just made the most of it.” Which brings me to this:

Sometimes I forget he’s a defenseman: When I first started blogging on oregonlive last summer, I had to straighten up and start watching the game properly. One of the first things I noticed at training camp was some dude wearing number seven who was tearing right through everyone and everything like it wasn’t even there. When I asked someone who that was they reminded me “that’s Joe Morrow.” Now mind, Joe had been on the previous year’s roster and I had watched him all season, but it wasn’t until that moment that I really started paying attention. Good thing too, seeing as how I have to act like I know what I’m doing and ask him stuff like this: 

He keeps it simple: When I asked him after a game how one of those rocket shots went right into a seemingly locked down net, he told me “I just looked for where the goalie wasn’t.”

He throws a mean punch: He skates and scores like a forward, but Joe’s not afraid to drop the mitts either. That fight, by the way, happened during a game in which the Portland Winterhawks scored five goals in 1:59 in the first period of a game against the Spokane Chiefs. After doing his time in the box, Joe went out and scored the team’s 7th goal in a 10-5 victory over the Chiefs.

He knows what matters: Joe comes from a true hockey family: his father was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks and his older brother Josh was drafted by the Nashville Predators. His father was also very briefly a Portland Winterhawk. Alas his older brother’s promising NHL career was cut short by a botched shoulder surgery while he was still in juniors. Hockey may soon be his profession, but in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Joe told a reporter “family comes first, hockey is second.”

He’s polite to a fault: I queried Joe about what was said during a particularly nasty line brawl that was instigated by Kamloops Blazers’ goalie Jeff Bosch after the whistle, and he told me “some inappropriate things were said.” What were the inappropriate things? “Oh, I can’t say.” Of course, that didn’t stop him from getting into a fight that would later get him suspended for one game. But he was very polite about it afterwards.

Still waters run deep: When I first met Joe at a practice, he was injured and sitting out. He was sitting on a small bench behind the net in the Winterhawks Skating Center, which was still under construction, staring intently at the ice. You could have fired one of his rocket shots right past him and he probably wouldn’t have noticed. I was sure I was going to get my butt handed to me during the interview, but what I got was one of the most thoughtful, well-spoken, courteous and shy players on the team.

You only have one shot. You have to make the most of it: That’s what Joe told me about his preparation for the draft. His father instilled that in him, along with working hard and doing everything he could to achieve his dream because “you don’t want to have any regrets.” Joe took his shot all the way to the first round and straight onto the roster of my favorite team. He listened to his father, he heeded the advice and here he is. Right where he deserves to be.

Note to Pittsburgh: Joe takes some getting to know at first, but don’t let the shy boy from Sherwood Park fool you. There’s more than meets the eye there: ask him the right questions and he’ll tell you anything you want to know. Well, except maybe inappopriate things that can’t be reprinted on oregonlive. And he has his priorities straight. So not to worry Pens fans, the front office did good with this one.  There were five Portland Winterhawks up for grabs in this draft, and Ray Shero wisely chose one of the best. If you don’t mind, we’d like to keep him for a little while. But I promise you, the wait will be worth it.




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Moq's avatar

Thank you for your piece on Joe Morrow. I’ve read a few contradictory reports, especially concerning his shot, so it’s nice with a firsthand report. I had hopes of seeing a Dane, Nicklas Jensen, drafted by the Penguins. Unfortunately, he ended up in Vancouver. But Joe Morrow sounds like a decent pick, which soothes some of my disappointment.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 06/28/11 at 01:21 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Yep I don’t have anything against the Kid ! I was just shocked that they didn’t draft a winger as they are desperately short of wingers in the OrganIzation

Posted by Evilpens on 06/28/11 at 01:28 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Nice post Samantha….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 06/28/11 at 02:39 PM ET

Lindas1st's avatar

Thanx Samatha, Joe Morrow sounds like a keeper.

Posted by Lindas1st from New England on 06/28/11 at 06:44 PM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com