My Favorite Enforcer
I reminisce on countless visits to Blue Cross Arena to see Sean McMorrow drop the gloves.
Growing up in a home where my father was not a hockey fan. A native Clevelander, his attention was always drawn to baseball and football, he never latched onto hockey. Seeing as my formative years were spent in Rochester, New York, it would be a thrill to go to Amerks games. As I developed a deeper love for hockey during my teenage years, there was one Amerk I loved to watch.
My father, knowing my increasing love for hockey, brought home a sign up sheet for free Amerks tickets. One of his vendors was offering his office a chance for free seats a few rows behind the Amerks bench. Seeing as how no one else in his office liked hockey, I snatched up as many dates as possible.
It was the 2002–03 season. The parent Buffalo Sabres were looking to rebuild their second division franchise. The likes of Paul Gaustad, Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller were developing into future keys to the team’s success. While it was exciting to see so many games featuring those rising stars, it was the enforcer that drew my attention.
Sean McMorrow, then a 20 year old pugilist on skates, built up a huge reputation in the OHL. For the previous three seasons McMorrow was on six different teams. Every where he went, he going to drop the gloves.
I was 16 years old. While I initially fell in love with the balance of strength and grace in hockey, there’s a guilty pleasure love for the enforcer. A blue collar position, it glorified the senseless violence of the game. I became addicted to McMorrow’s vicious punches.
There was nothing graceful to McMorrow’s game. He was the prototypical AHL “goon”. He was there to beat the shit out of the toughest guy Syracuse, Binghamton, or Hershey could offer. He was there to protect his teammates, but mostly to give us a thrill.
Year in, year out, McMorrow would be near the top of the league leaders in penalty minutes. Even as hockey fights became more meaningless (especially in the years following the 2004–05 lockout), McMorrow was entertaining.
It was during that lockout year, needing a live hockey fix, I got to see McMorrow start a game at right wing. Coach Randy Cunneyworth wanted to make an immediate impact by letting Morrow start the game in the penalty box. Because as soon as the referee dropped the puck, McMorrow was already ditching the stick and mitts.
Even with a limited pro hockey skill set, McMorrow’s career endured. Not a scorer in any sense, having tallied four goals in 220 AHL games, he eventually landed in Quebec’s LNAH. In a league built as a last ditch effort for vicious, old time hockey, McMorrow maintained his cult status as a fighting bad ass.
The man nicknamed “The Sheriff” took to heart the moniker. He spent plenty of time enforcing the law on the ice and spent 527 minutes in the penalty box during the 2007–08 season alone.
It’s hard to not be reminded of McMorrow’s legacy at Rochester Amerks games. Chances are some die hard fan is wearing a McMorrow jersey. For me, just being at the arena conjures up memories of fights I had seen in person or relived on Youtube.