By Lauren Parsons
Playing in Canada’s largest multi-sport event helped NHLer take pride in something bigger than himself
For many young athletes, the Canada Games is their first appearance on a national stage. It can be a vital juncture in their developing careers, and a pivotal point in their lives. Young, talented and enthusiastic, our country’s next generation of international and Olympic champions often emerge here. Canada Games alumnus and now Winnipeg Jets defenceman, Josh Morrissey, still has that earnest love of his chosen sport. His eyes light up and he smiles when he talks about playing hockey. Even after 60 minutes of practice, you get the feeling he’s ready to jump back on the ice for more.
The 21-year-old grew up playing hockey in Calgary. In 2011, he brought home the bronze medal with Team Alberta from the Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
“The opening ceremonies and the first game of the tournament were amazing. You’re in front of all these people, representing Alberta and you’re standing with all the other teams from other provinces under the Canada flag - that’s a special feeling,” Morrissey said.
One of the most significant lessons he took away from participating in the Canada Games was what it means to represent something bigger than himself.
“It was my first experience playing against the best players from all over Canada,” he said. “When you represent your province as a younger player, you feel that sense of pride for your province and it helps you carry that pride for the country in national tournaments.”
In the four short years following his participation in the Canada Games, Morrissey represented Canada at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the IIHF World U18 Hockey Championship, and the 2015 World Junior Championship where Team Canada won gold.
“The pride that you feel wearing the jersey representing your province – you have people standing behind you and supporting you, more than your usual teammates, staff and family. You feel a pride bigger than yourself and bigger than the game,” he said.
That support from friends, family and Alberta’s hockey community was felt once again, in March 2016, when Morrissey was called up to the Winnipeg Jets to play against the Montreal Canadiens in his first NHL game.
“Obviously, family and friends are talking to you, but also the Hockey Alberta people. The people who did so much for us back then -- coaches, staff, team services and people behind the scenes, people who got to know us - are sending texts. It’s pretty special that they can share that with me and my family,” he said.
Morrissey talked about the lifelong friendships he has developed over the years through sport, some of which date back to when he participated in the Canada Games. In the athletes’ village, he met hockey players representing different provinces, as well as athletes participating in other sporting events. And the support is still there from his Team Alberta teammates.
Morrissey explained there are several other players from Team Alberta who continue to play hockey, either in the National Hockey League or elsewhere. He says that he enjoys catching up with everyone when he is back home in the off-season. One such player is Edmonton-born goaltender Eric Comrie who was the net minder for Team Alberta in 2011 and is now playing for the Winnipeg Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
Five years after the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, Morrissey said it was always his goal to play in the NHL. He said it feels good to be able to stand back and see how his experiences – such as representing Alberta in the Canada Games – have helped him to succeed and to be where he is today.