The Fire that Burns
Thursday, 12.20.2007 / 9:11 AM CT / Feature
By J. Douglas Foster
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Brenden Morrow remembers well the impression he got from respected veteran teammate Guy Carbonneau upon arriving to his first ever NHL training camp.
Morrow, now in his eighth NHL season, quickly saw what made Carbonneau –a three-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time winner of the Selke Trophy as league’s best defensive forward – worthy of the immense respect he received in the locker room.
Carbonneau’s presence was not a vocal one, Morrow said, but the words he chose were taken seriously because of the effort he used to support them.
“He was all class,” Morrow said. “But he was quiet. Real quiet at first. But what he did say carried a lot of weight because he was such a professional and was so competitive. He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around,
“He wasn’t real vocal about telling his teammates what to do. He just went out and showed you.”
Sound like someone else we know?
It’s a fascinating coincidence that Carbonneau, now the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, would eventually become Morrow’s father-in-law. If you look at the competitive drive, the will-to-win, the “give everything you’ve got on every single shift and nothing less” mentality employed by the Stars’ captain, and it’s almost as if Carbonneau hand picked the player most like himself to welcome to the family.
Carbonneau returns to Dallas for the first time in his current position with the Canadiens on Sunday, when the Stars host Montreal (Click here for tickets) in game one of a four-game holiday homestand. And though the similarities between the two may not be apparent to the common fan that night, it’s obvious to those who are familiar with both men.
“They are alike in a lot of ways,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas, a teammate of Morrow’s who played for Carbonneau while in Montreal. “They are both great leaders. Neither one of them is very vocal, but they lead by example.
“And they both have that look. You can just sense things when you look in their eyes on the ice. I see that look in Brenden’s eyes … that fire. He’s so competitive. You know he’ll do whatever it takes to win the hockey game. He wants it so bad, and I saw that same thing from Carbo even as an assistant coach.”
Morrow knows something about that fire.
It burns in him every night on the ice. And despite being retired from the playing side of hockey since 2000, it still burns inside the 47-year old Carbonneau in any instance of stiff competition.
It will most likely burn in both of them as they square off Sunday from opposing benches, even with the great relationship they share.
“I like to think I’m as competitive as they get,” Morrow said. “But when I play golf with him, he’s equal to me. Well, he kills me score-wise. But in terms of competitive juices, they still flow in him. He’s still got that fire.
“That’s the great thing about him. Some guys lose it when they have a little bit of winning. But he never lost it. He’s won three Cups, and he never lost that fire. He never lost that edge and desire to win. He was always after it.”
He also didn’t go over the edge when national media members brought the dating relationship between Brenden and Anne-Marie, Carbonneau’s oldest daughter, to light during the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs, despite the fact that both Carbonneau and Morrow felt the focus at that point should have been solely on hockey, not on their personal lives.
Fortunately, Morrow’s elder teammate understood. And despite media mettling, their relationship stayed strong – just as it is now some three-plus years after the Morrows’ Montreal wedding.
Since that time, Morrow has had more and more opportunities to absorb lessons from his father-in-law. Morrow relishes his chances to learn both sides of the game from two people he considers among the smartest hockey minds he’s every encountered – Carbonneau, and Stars’ co-general manager Brett Hull.
“I don’t understand the game nearly as well as either one of those two guys,” Morrow said. “But I get both sides of the game from them. I get the offensive side and tips on how to score from Hully, and with Carbo I learn more about positioning and angles and being defensively responsible.”
But the most important lesson he ever learned from Carbonneau, he said, has nothing to do with the game itself.
It was about something much more important than hockey.
“His class and his professionalism,” Morrow said, referring to Carbonneau’s best lesson. “He played the game 20 years, and he still handles the players, the coaches, the media and the fans with respect every day. He might be upset about a game or something else going on, but I’ve never seem him turn down an interview or say no to a fan who wanted an autograph.”
While he takes all Carbonneau’s lessons to heart, what really makes Morrow a special player, according to Robidas, doesn’t have to do with influence provided by others.
There’s a certain amount of heart, intensity and accountability that just comes naturally, he said. And while Carbonneau certainly possessed that, Morrow didn’t need to learn that side of the game from his father-in-law.
He already had it.
“He’s our identity,” Robidas said. “Carbo put an identity on his teams with the way he worked, and Brenden does the same. He plays how we have to play to win. We have to work hard and battle to win, and he is the perfect example of how we do it.
“He is the identity of the Dallas Stars.”
Yep, Morrow’s got that going for him -- which is nice. He’s also in the middle of one of his best offensive seasons, currently sitting second on the Stars in points and coming microscopically close to a point-per-game average.
But more than that, he has what every guy hopes to find upon initially meeting his bride-to-be’s father: a pleasant, respectful relationship with his father-in-law.
“It’s certainly not a chore for me to hang out with my in-laws,” Morrow said. “We enjoy a lot of the same things. Some of my favorite times are playing golf with him or hanging out and having a cigar with him. I would say I’m pretty lucky to have him as a father-in-law.”