Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Signature Stars: Ken Morrow

USA goalie Jim Craig (30) and defenseman Ken Morrow (3) defend the net during the team’s 1980 medal-round game against the USSR, which was played 32 years ago today. The U.S. pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history with a 4-3 victory and would go onto defeat Finland in the gold medal game and complete the “Miracle on Ice.” (Heinz Kluetmeier/SI)
GALLERY: Photos of the Miracle on Ice | Greatest Upsets In Sports History SI VAULT: U.S. Hockey squad wins SI Sportsman of the Year (12.22.80)
Morrow (#3) defends the net.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
From the moment Ken Morrow started playing hockey, he was a champion. In 1976, he was drafted by the New York Islanders. Before he could play his first NHL game, he got a chance to try out for the United States Olympic team. After a rigorous tryout under legendary coach Herb Brooks, Morrow had made the team. That team would go on to upset the heavily favored Soviet Union in a game later known as the Miracle on Ice. That was voted to be the greatest moment in American sports history. The US would later go on to win the gold medal against Finland a few days later. Morrow was a solid defenseman for the United States throughout those 1980 Olympics, stopping the opposition in it's tracks and making big hits when he needed to. He was even on the ice for the final shift of the Soviet Union game. You could see that shift HERE, if you didn't click on the words 'Miracle on Ice' above.

Shortly after leaving Lake Placid, Morrow was thrown into the Islanders lineup. Even though Morrow was never known to be a goal scorer, he scored THIS goal to win a key game in the first round en route to the Islanders first Stanley Cup win. That made Morrow the first player ever to win Olympic Gold and the Stanley Cup in the same season. Morrow went on to play on all four Islanders Stanley Cup teams, scoring THIS goal to finish off the Oilers in the last game of the fourth Stanley Cup win. Morrow eventually retired due to injuries in 1989. In recent years, he has been one of the head scouts for the Islanders. 

Back in 2009, when I was first getting into autographs in the mail, I sent Ken four cards, he sent them back signed in a few weeks, and he personalized one like I asked. He wrote something very unique on the card that he personalized. Believe in miracles. I hadn't asked for those specific words, but they came out great. If you are wondering, I have thousands of cards from all four sports, spanning over many years and decades, all throughout my house. All I have to do is look, and I'll find cards of just about any athlete that I'm looking for. 

Now fast forward to December 2011, the Islanders were set to induct Morrow to their Hall of Fame on New Years Eve. A couple days prior, the Islanders were hosting the Calgary Flames. I had tickets for that game as it was during my winter vacation from school. Prior to the game, the Islanders said that Morrow would be doing at singing at that game. I was thrilled, as I had a special puck that I wanted him to sign. The signing was going to take place during the second intermission of the game. I arrived about halfway through the second period, as I didn't want to wait on line for too long. If you are going to a signing, be sure to show up early for whatever you are going to. To my surprise, Morrow was already there signing away. While waiting on line, I took a video of Ken signing which you can see HERE. Shortly after I stopped filming, I approach Ken, and he signed the puck with the inscription that I asked for. I shook his hand, thanked him, then left and went back to my seat as the line grew several hundred people deep. 

That would be the last time I saw Morrow for a while. Then, this past December 8, I was at an Albany Devils game with my friend. The Devils were playing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Isles AHL affiliate. As we were walking around the concourse during the intermission, the door to the bathroom opened. The person that walked out was, you guessed it, Ken Morrow. I said, "Ken?" He looked at me, confirming that it was in fact who I thought it was. My friend and I approached him, and I asked if I could take a picture with him. He said sure, and you can see the picture we took HERE. After taking the picture, my friend asked Morrow to sign his ticket, and Morrow obliged. He signed a page in my autograph book as well, and then I asked him a question I had thought about for a while. "Who would win in a game; your 1980 Olympic team USA that won the Gold, or your 1980 Islanders that won the Stanley Cup?" To paraphrase, Morrow said that the Islanders would probably win because they had more talent. He also added that neither legendary coach, Herb Brooks or Al Arbour, would be out-coached. My friend and I thanked him for his time, and we went our separate ways. Morrow was there scouting for the Islanders during the lockout. There were no NHL games, so Morrow was in Albany to look at many of the Islanders prospects.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, I sent Morrow the picture he took with me in Albany as well as a picture from his Islanders playing days to the same address I sent the cards to years earlier. A few weeks later, I looked in the mailbox and got both back signed. He personalized the picture with the same inscription he made on one of my cards back in 2009. The signed picture of him playing can be seen in the second paragraph of this entry.

Ken Morrow is a legend in the world of hockey, and he is a legend in fan interaction. He is a great person, and it was a pleasure to meet him. Ken is a mail legend, as well as a great person to meet live. That makes him a signature star. 

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