Morrison remembers it like a song

IceCaps assistant coach was a two-time world junior player, and part of 1982 Canadian team/choral group

Published on December 24, 2011
Hockey Canada photo The official photo of the 1983 Canadian world junior hockey team. That's Mark Morrison, who was captain of the team, in the centre of the second row, just behind the left shoulder of goalie Mike Sands. The team, which included future NHL stars like Mario Lemiuex, Steve Yzerman and Dave Andreychuk, won a bronze medal in the 1983 world juniors, played at Leningrad in the Soviet Union (now St. Petersburg, Russia). The year before, Morrison, nowadays the assistant coach of the AHL's St. John's IceCaps, had been a member of the first-ever Canadian national junior team, one which had far fewer big-name players, but nevertheless claimed the world gold medal. - Hockey Canada photo

A week ago tonight in Portland, Me., when somebody forgot that it was a Canadian team taking on the hometown Pirates and didn't have O Canada ready to go for the pre-game anthems, you had to excuse St. John's IceCaps' assistant coach Mark Morrison if, for a moment, a faraway look passed over his face.

You see, it was almost exactly 30 years ago that Morrison was a participant in what is perhaps the best-known incident of an unplayed anthem at a hockey game.

It took place in a small, 1,000-seat rink in Rochester, Minn., where Morrison and his Canadian teammates had just battled Czechoslovakia to a 3-3 tie, thereby clinching the gold medal in the 1982 world junior hockey championship.

But O Canada wasn't played.

Some say it was because there was no recording of the national anthem. Others feel it is more likely that those in charge of such matters didn't air the anthem because the game - which was officially a round-robin contest - had ended in a tie. Back then, there was no medal round only a round-robin, turning the Canadian-Czech matchup on the tournament's last day into made-to-order drama - if Canada had lost, the Czechs would have claimed the championship.

The Canadians held off a late rally to gain the gold medal, which they wore around their necks as they lined up on the ice.

But while they heard applause, they didn't hear an anthem.

So they sang it themselves, in unison, or something close to unison.

Yelled it at the top of their lungs, actually.

"I'm not sure who started it, but everyone picked up on it and it was pretty loud," said Morrison with a remembering a smile.

"I don't know how good we were as singers, but I know it sounded good tor us."

Those in attendance must have appreciated the rendition, because the Canadian chorus received a standing ovation.

Not many others heard it live.

There were a couple of TV cameras present, but there was no live television broadcast. And while the game was carried on radio, most Canadians only got to listen to a telephone feed of the play-by-play call of the final few minutes of the game during Hockey Night in Canada.

But even though that game had none of the glitz and fanfare that accompany the multimedia extravaganzas that are today's world junior hockey championships, the 1982 Canadian team is still considered one of the most significant in the history of the tournament.

For one thing, it went undefeated, finishing 6-0-1, a record that included a 7-0 thumping of Russia in the opening game played in Winnipeg (Games for the 1982 tourney were spread all over the place - in Winnipeg; Kenora, Ont., Minneapolis; and a number of small Minnesota communities like Rochester).

Morrison and his linemates, Paul Cyr and Bruce Eakin were the offensive stars of that game against the Russians, producing four goals.

But from a history-making perspective, the 1982 Canadian team was noteworthy, in that it was the first real Canadian national junior team. Prior to that, Canada had been represented at the worlds by the previous year's Memorial Cup champions, augmented by a few pickups.

"We just got a call out of the blue that summer asking us if we wanted to go to a camp, which I think was in Regina," said Morrison. "Then players were added or dropped from the list depending on how well they played during the first half of the season. Then we met for a three-day camp in Winnipeg just before the start (of the tournament).

"That meant we had to come together quickly. And we did."

Morrison tied for fifth in tournament scoring in 1982 with 10 points, including three goals. He also played with the 1983 Canadian world junior team in Leningrad, U.S.S.R., captaining a group that included Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Dave Andreychuk and Mike Vernon.

The 1983 Canadian squad won bronze and that medal isprobably someone in Morrison's possession. But he knows exactly where the 1982 gold medal can be found.

"It's the one thing I have from hockey that's on display in my home ... right out in the open," said Morrison.