Thursday, September 29, 2011

Elwin "Moe" Morris. War-Time Fill In and Cup Winner

During the second World War, as in most sports, rosters of NHL teams were depleted by players signing up for military duty. When the Toronto Maple Leafs reported for training camp in the middle of October 1943 there were only three veterans present. Bob Davidson, Lorne Carr and Bucko McDonald who were soon joined by fellow vets Babe Pratt, Mel Hill and Reg Hamilton.

One of the many rookies that would round out the line-up was 22 year old defenceman Elwin "Moe" Morris. He had previously been a "well-regarded" backfielder with football's Toronto Argos in 1940 and had graduated from the Toronto Marlboros junior and senior programs.
Morris' hockey career really took off in 1942/43 aftre joining the Toronto Navy squad. He joined the Navy in December, 1942 and would be discharged in June of '43 for physical reasons. Upon arriving at Leaf camp in 1943 Morris said, "I don't know what happened last year but I suddenly gained confidence." He had produced 6 goals and 16 points in the 11 games he played for Toronto Navy.

Leaf coach Hap Day planned on pairing the rookie with Babe Pratt on the Toronto defence saying,"Morris can carry the puck, but he's the kind of a player who will stay back and take care of the defence while Pratt makes use of his puck carrying ability. They make a good team." Day's assessment proved correct as Morris finished his rookie season with 12 goals and 33 points while playing all 50 games. He finished fifth amongst defnders in points behind Pratt, Pat Egan, Ott Heller and Flash Hollett.

The return from military service of Leaf veteran Wally Stanowski bumped Morris down the depth chart the following season. Morris played only 29 games in 1944/45 and his production plumetted to zero goals and a mere 2 assists. t would seem though, he saved his best for the playoffs that year as he notched three goals in helping Toronto win the Cup.

Morris broke his season long slump in a Semi-Final game five loss to Montreal and added the important first goal in game six, when Toronto clinched the series 3-2. The newspapers described; "He paired up with dependable Frank McCool to provide one of the best defensive shows in hockey play this year. Morris also scored the first Toronto goal in the first period, on a brilliant solo effort. It came on a breakaway play on which he shifted clear of a five-man Montreal attack and then outdistanced Defenceman Frankie Eddolls of Canadiens in a furious rink-long dash. It was the second goal Morris has scored this season, his first coming Thursday night in the fifth game of the series."

He then added another tally in the Game Two Finals 2-0 win over Detroit; "Hard-working Elwyn Morris of the Leaf defence notched the clincher on a breakaway in the last period." Apparently, for a defenceman, Morris managed to get his fair share of breakaway's.

After Toronto went up three games to none in the Final on the third straight shutout from "Ulcers" McCool, Coach Hap Day was quoted; "The four youngsters with the team-Gus Bodnar, Ted Kennedy, Elwyn Morris and of course Frank McCool - have risen to great heights." Toronto would go on to win the Cup in seven, almost blowing a three game lead.

The following season, Morris got into 38 games with Leafs, scoring a goal and 5 helpers. He would then settle into eight solid years in the AHL and was traded to New York Rangers and played 18 games with them in 1948/49. In December of that year he was traded to Providence of the AHL in a deal that brought future Leaf defenceman Allan Stanley to the NHL.

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