Joe Morrow

Joe Morrow

In his first six NHL games, Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow hasn’t registered a point and he’s played to an even plus/minus rating.

But the rookie has averaged 17:37 of ice time and formed a formidable second defense pair with veteran Adam McQuaid at a time when the Bruins desperately needed stability after Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Torey Krug went down with injuries.

The 21-year-old blueliner’s first stint in the NHL has done more than make sure the Bruins have survived their rash of injuries. Morrow’s NHL debut and subsequent games achieved a family-wide goal almost 40 years in the making.

“It’s just very emotional. We’re very, very proud of him and just stand behind him, watching him play and hope he can just keep it up,” Joe’s father Dave Morrow told this week. “It’s been a long time coming and he finally got his opportunity and he’s making good on it. So we’re very pleased with that.”

Dave Morrow, who was also a defenseman, was a fourth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 1977 and a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association that same year. Although the elder Morrow skated in 10 games for the Indianapolis Racers (post-Wayne Gretzky) in the WHA in 1978-79, the team folded after that season. Dave Morrow played one more season after that and then retired at 23 years old without reaching the NHL. He went on to do some farming, work as a computer programmer and eventually work for his optometrist wife Dorrie for around 35 years.

The elder Morrow, who resides with his wife just east of Sherwood Park, Alberta, isn’t afraid to admit he has some regrets his career didn’t last longer. It can help a son succeed, though, when a father goes through experiences like Dave Morrow’s and passes them on.

“I just kind of gave up. Looking back I was still pretty young and I probably shouldn’t have. But I was just down on the game and everything that went on,” Dave said. “And I just made that decision. So that’s something I’ve instilled in Joseph from time to time is never quit. You get this one window of opportunity and you do everything you can to make it happen. And if it doesn’t go your way and you gave it your best shot, then you can live with that.”

Joe was a first-round pick of Pittsburgh in 2011. During the 2013 season the Penguins traded him to Dallas and the Stars traded him to the Bruins that summer. He played 127 American Hockey League games for three organizations before he got the call to Boston. Dad never detected impatience or frustration from his son about his progression.

“Not really. He’s a pretty level-headed kid and ever since he was little, as young as 3 and 4 years old, he was a young boy that you could just sit and talk to,” Dave said. “If something was wrong, he was very logical. And if you explained it to him, he was fine with it. And I think he’s taken that attitude that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Every day you just try to get better out there and that’s what he’s tried to do. Go out and work hard in practice and try to do what the coaches told him to do. Even though dad is a coach sometimes too, I’ve had to kind of step back and just support him. And whatever his coaches have asked him to do, that’s the support we’ve given him.”

Dave coached both his sons Josh, who’s 9 ½ years older, and Joe growing up. (They also have a middle sister Whitney). Dave taught them about what it takes to be a pro and instilled in them the work ethic to make it someday. Unfortunately, Josh, who was also a defenseman, has his career derailed not long after he was picked by the Nashville Predators in the seventh round in 2002.

In the winter of 2003, Josh suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Kamloops in the Western Hockey League. The surgeon botched the surgery and the subsequent cover up resulted in debilitating damage to Josh’s body and a $1.5 million court award in an ensuing lawsuit. There was no amount of money, however, that could make up for the derailment of Josh’s NHL dream.

Joe’s recent success has healed some of the pain both his father and brother felt over the years.

“That’s bittersweet, right? Josh, he was a good hockey player as well. And unfortunately he had a bad injury and has surgery and that kind of messed him up for good. He couldn’t play the game anymore,” Dave said. “So for Joseph to come along, Joe was our last shot. And he made good. That’s something. He’s played in the NHL, and that’s something that nobody can ever take away from him and it’s up to him how far he takes it now. Hopefully he continues to play well and help the team and move forward.”

Joe Morrow has yet to find the limits of what he can accomplish as a player and the amount of pride he can generate in his family. The Bruins should reap the rewards of Joe’s attempt to find those limits.