CHICAGO – Blackhawks forward Jeremy Morin finished his morning skate Monday and headed to his locker to change out of his sweat-soaked pads.
Morin knew that he wouldn’t need those pads for Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues. The talented 23-year-old remained inactive despite the public pleading of fans and former teammates who called on the Hawks to give him a chance to play.
“Obviously, I want to be in the lineup, and that’s the goal,” said Morin, who shined with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. “But, at the same time, I’m excited to be here.”
Two days earlier, one of Morin’s former Rockford teammates had created a stir during the middle of the Game 2 in St. Louis. That player, current Florida Panthers forward Brandon Pirri, had taken to Twitter to express his frustration.
By the time the puck dropped on Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, Pirri’s message – “#freemorin” – had tallied 1,153 retweets and 745 favorites.
Like it or not, verbal shots had been fired at the Hawks’ decision-makers. Imagine if Devin Hester were to tweet “trestmanstinks” in the middle of a Bears game next fall. Or if Alfonso Soriano were to tweet “#1908” as the Cubs let another game slip away.
Yet none of Pirri’s retweets or favorites came from Hawks coach Joel Quenneville (who is not on Twitter, although his mustache has an account). Quenneville has the final say in regard to the Hawks’ playoff lineup, and he stuck to his veteran-laden roster in Game 3 rather than inserting Morin for a player such as Brandon Bollig.
Maybe Morin appreciated the supportive tweet from his friend and former teammate. Or maybe it gave him a giant headache.
Within seconds, the answer was clear. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Morin’s expression was worth a thousand Twitter hashtags.
“I don’t have anything to say about that,” Morin said.
It was a smart move by the former second-round draft pick from upstate New York. Perhaps Pirri’s lack of patience was the reason the Hawks shipped him out of town. No player comes ahead of the team on the Hawks, especially when that player is a rookie with loads of potential but little in the way of NHL production.
Morin understands his role as one of the new guys. He skillfully has balanced the line between wanting to play and gratefully supporting his teammates.
“Everybody here wants to be playing,” Morin said. “It’s just human nature to want to be in the lineup.
“At the same time, supporting your teammates is a different role. It’s just whatever you can do to help the team, whether it’s a practice or something like that. That’s what I’m trying to do. We’re all trying to stay ready and be there for each other.”
It’s a position that even rivals can appreciate.
Blues forward Adam Cracknell split his time during the regular season between the NHL and the AHL, where he played for the Chicago Wolves. Cracknell earned a spot in the Blues’ playoff lineup and took advantage by scoring the first goal of Game 1.
From his years playing against Morin in the minors, Cracknell said, it was clear that the Hawks’ prospect also was capable of making big plays in big moments.
“I’ve played quite a bit against him,” Cracknell said. “I’ve been in the same situation. You’re up and down, and you’re kind of in and out of the lineup.”
It’s a tough spot. But it’s better to yo-yo than to not play at all.
“You wait for that phone call,” Cracknell said. “I was in Des Moines, Iowa, a couple of weeks ago. You just sit there and you’re watching hockey and all of a sudden a couple of guys go down and you get the call, and now I’m playing against the Blackhawks in Game 1 and 2.
“You never know when that call will come, but for guys like us, you always have to be ready. When you’re down, you can’t go on the negative side. You have to stay positive.”
Morin is staying positive and savoring his up-close view of the playoffs.
“Every game is a do or die kind of thing,” Morin said. “Anything for the team.”
So here’s a new hashtag, dedicated to Morin.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.