Former P.A. Raider reflects on past, present with prairie-based hockey teams
By Marjorie Roden, Daily Herald Contributor
In late February, Winnipeg freelancer Marjorie Roden had the opportunity to chat with defenceman Josh Morrissey about his time with both the Winnipeg Jets (currently in his second professional season), his time with the Prince Albert Raiders and the upcoming NHL post-season. This was their conversation.
MR: This season, I noticed that the Jets are pretty high in the standings.
JM: It’s been a good year. We have a lot of young players and we’ve been trying to really get better the last few years, so I think we’ve taken a big step forward in our development as our team.
We have veteran players who have really been big parts of us, taking that next step forward. Great leaders on our team so it’s been pretty fun to sort of see our progression as a group over the last couple of years.
MR: I looked through some of the highlights of you playing for the Jets, admittedly I was up too late last night, but I noticed that when you rush in there, you really know how to get the puck in there.
JM: I’ve tried to be, especially growing up, being a two way defenceman, and have some offensive abilities, and an ability to contribute at both ends of the ice; contribute both defensively but also get into the play.
With the new rule changes since (the 2003-04 season), now it’s been a lot more so you can get the D up in the rush, and it’s part of our systems. I’ve been pretty happy, and I’ve started being more comfortable to go up there and be a bit more offensive as well.
MR: Your playing style kind of reminded me of some of the old highlight reels I’ve seen of Paul Coffey.
JM: Obviously, [Paul Coffey] was one of the best skating defencemen of all time, and he would just get the puck, and he skated so effortlessly and so fluidly up the ice, (he) created so much offense that way.
But then, he was the first guy back to make good defensive plays with just using his skating. He was sort of ahead of his time, I think, and you start seeing a lot more defencemen now that are good skaters. I’m a long ways away from being Paul Coffey, but you know, he’s a guy – Scott Niedermeyer, players like that, Nik Lidstrom – that were able to do it at both ends, and they are guys that I really look up to and try and emulate some of the stuff that they do in their games for sure.
MR: I noticed that you average around 20 minutes a game.
JM: Yeah, it’s been pretty good. I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of opportunity to play with some really good players and get a chance to play in some key situations and stuff like that. That’s all you want as a player is your coaches to trust you to give you a chance to play and it’s been pretty exciting that way for sure as a young guy.
MR: Thinking back to your time in Prince Albert, what was the biggest thing you think you learned in P.A.?
JM: I was just so fortunate to play there under some great people. Dave Manson was our [defensive] coach, and every day, working with Dave to try to work on my defensive game. I think when I went there, I was pretty offensive, and we really worked a lot on positioning and watching a lot of video and stuff like that.
Dave really was very instrumental in my development and taking me from a young guy going there to getting drafted, and then moving on to play professional hockey. I owe a lot to Dave, and all the coaches we had there, and the team and the city; it was really where I went from being a midget hockey player to the chance to go and play pro hockey, and eventually make the NHL.
I was so lucky. I really enjoyed playing in PA for the Raiders, and there’s so much of history there. In that city, you feel a lot of pride playing for the Raiders, and wearing that jersey and looking up and seeing all the players who played there, like Dave (Manson) and Mike Modano, and some of those guys.
MR: I know the playoffs are coming really soon.
JM: We’re in a good spot right now, and we just want to keep trying to get better. We have a young team, we want to try and peak at the right time, right at the end of the season. It’s been a really good first three quarters of the year. That last 20-some games is when it really gets tighter and everyone is pushing for those points, so it will be a good test for our team down the stretch, and we just want to keep winning and try to give ourselves the best chance to get into the playoffs and give ourselves a good spot.