Morris Up To The Task
Manchester Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris puts his heart and soul into his American Hockey League team. Throughout his six-season reign as the Monarchs bench boss, Morris has only missed the playoffs once and he has taken the Monarchs to the Calder Cup’s Eastern Conference Finals twice, the furthest the franchise has advanced in team history. When Opening Night approaches in early October, Morris will once again be glad to be behind the bench for Manchester.
The head coach of any professional sports team carries a lot of pressure. Maintaining a winning culture is not easy as players further their careers in the National Hockey League but Morris has carried that burden in every place he has coached. It is simply a part of coaching but he understands it is also a collective endeavor.
“As a head coach, it is your job to try and help or create an environment for winning to happen and that comes through a group effort,” said Morris. “I think for one person to try and do it by themselves is almost an impossibility.”
In coaching, there is a lot of “on the job” training. The game of hockey and the art of coaching is ever changing and experience is the best way to learn.
“One thing I have learned over time is that it is okay to not always be right and that helps to endear you with the people you work with.” reflected Morris. “I think over time, I have been able to adapt as the game has changed.”
Coaching presents many challenges but it can also be quite rewarding.
“Watching guys realize their dreams,” stated Morris in regards to one of the rewards of coaching. “It dawned on me watching the playoffs when we went out to see the (Los Angeles) Kings recently. We got to see how many former players were living their dream and having the experience of playing for the Stanley Cup.”
When asked for his favorite moment as the Monarchs bench boss, Morris did manage to narrow it down to a few.
“There are lots of memorable moments,” he explained. “Our first win when (Konstantin) Pushkarev scored an unbelievable goal in a shootout to give us our first win. I think about the playoff run in my first season (2006-07) and I think about the playoff series against Binghamton where we ended up on the short end of a pile of playoff games that we led 3-1 and then lost four overtimes games. Most recently, I think about breaking the Norfolk Admirals record winning streak.
Morris then reminded himself about a game on March 31, 2010 when goaltender Matt Lopes was tossed into his first and only AHL game against the Lowell Devils. Lopes played just over 54 minutes and made 42 saves that night in Lowell.
“We had an unlikely win when (Jeff) Zatkoff got hurt and we put in a goalie we called up for the afternoon,” chuckled Morris. “We won a game in Lowell that we did not have any business winning and Zatkoff had gotten hurt earlier in the game and this kid was playing after never playing in the American Hockey League. How the puck stayed out to this day still amazes me but nonetheless, we were able to win that game.”
After reflecting on a few memorable moments from the past six years, Morris was quick to turn his attention to next season.
“If I had a wish list, I would like to see if we can build around the skilled players we have,” said Morris. “Obviously, we have a lot of real gifted playmakers and scorers from their previous leagues and we will see if we can take advantage of that next season.”
Coach Morris is up to the task for making more memories with the Monarchs come Opening Night this October.