Travis Morin came to Cedar Park in 2009 not knowing if he’d even make the team. Almost eight years later, he’s turned into the face of the franchise.
The Stars’ captain has been with Texas from its inception and leads the club in all major categories including regular season games played, goals, assists, points, power play goals and power play assists. He picked up his 600th point and 400th assist of his professional career earlier this season.
“It’s kind of hard to believe at times,” Morin said. “I never really doubted myself, but you’re never sure how things are going to work out. I’ve been very lucky I’ve been in a place that’s wanted me and I’ve wanted to be.”
“All my points and success is a culmination of a lot of things and I owe a lot of my success to the team and the organization.”
He has appeared in 498 regular season AHL games and scored 147 goals with 291 assists and scored 16 goals and 33 assists in 65 playoff appearances. He was named league MVP and Calder Cup MVP after leading the Stars to their only championship in 2014.
During that season, he tied the franchise single-game record for points (5) and assists (4) in a game on Jan. 17 at the Charlotte Checkers.
In all his years in hockey, Morin said his favorite moment was the Calder Cup finals that season. Texas beat the St. John’s IceCaps in five games, winning the last three in the series in overtime. He scored nine goals and had 13 assists, including the game-winner on the road in Game 4.
“I always felt like I played better when I was more comfortable,” Morin said. “I was more comfortable here even if the NHL rosters were harder to get into. My wife and kids love the area. It’s kind of like a second home.”
The center grew up in hockey-crazed Minnesota and was a finalist for Mr. Hockey in his home state before playing college hockey at Minnesota State University-Mankato. He was drafted 263rd overall by the Washington Capitals in 2004.
His role with the Stars is ever-changing and he likes to think he’s more than just a player when it comes to the team and the community. In mentoring the younger guys on the team, the 31-year-old tries to help them move on and move up.
“I wouldn’t say he’s at the end of his career, but he knows the opportunity to play in the NHL is probably coming to an end,” Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said. “With players like him, you can count on them in the dressing room and offensively and his practice habits. It feels like he has a player coach mentality and he’s going to give you his best effort every night.”
This season has gotten off to a good start. Despite coming off an injury, Morin leads the team with 11 goals and is tied for the team lead with 14 assists and is one of five players to appear in all 27 games so far.
He’s embraced his role as the cool-headed veteran on one of the youngest teams in the AHL, showing the guys the come in as high draft picks the guidelines on how to be a professional.
Texas has won four of its last six games and will stay at home for the next four games, facing the San Diego Gulls in a two-game series on Thursday and Saturday before kicking off 2017 with back-to-back home games against the defending Calder Cup Champions Cleveland Monsters on Jan. 6 and 7.
“I don’t see myself leaving the organization if I don’t have to,” Morin said. “If they want me back for a few more years, I’m going to stay here rather than go somewhere else trying to find a better opportunity to play in the NHL.”
His time in the NHL has been sparse so far, having appeared in just 13 games with one point on an assist on March 14, 2014, against the Calgary Flames.
But his dream isn’t dead just yet.
The Stars gave him an opportunity to play at this level and he’s run with it and seen his life and game change along the way and turned into an ambassador for the franchise. Whatever happens, he’s happy and it’s a win-win for both sides.
“I know at my age, there are very slim chances to get back,” Morin said. “I’m happy to have gotten up there. I wish I could have maybe scored a goal or two, but all in all, but not a lot of people can say they’ve fulfilled their childhood dreams.”