‘I was really lucky to have her' — Morin endures thanks to mom's loving drive


Samuel Morin admires his mom’s fearlessness.

No, she doesn’t stand at a towering 6-foot-6 height like her son, the imposing but happy-go-lucky Flyers defenseman. She didn’t teach him the art of finishing a check or the guts to dropping the gloves.

But she makes things happen. Whatever it takes.

His mother Sylvie and the Morin family are from the small town of Saint-Isidore, a French-speaking farming area about 30 minutes outside of Quebec City.

When Morin tore the ACL in his right knee for the second time in a span of 19 months, forcing him to undergo another extensive surgery and arduous recovery, she was on her way to Philadelphia to take care of her son. It didn’t matter that she didn’t speak much English or was new to living in the busy ways of a big American city.

After Morin’s procedure during November 2019, his mom lived with him for a month in his Philly apartment.

“It was just a two-bedroom apartment,” Morin said Wednesday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Not too big, but enough for me and her.

“At the beginning of the phase you need help and my mom was right there with me. She saw what the city looked like. I think she really liked it. I tried to bring her to restaurants and show her around a little bit, but I was on crutches, so it was a little bit harder.”

Mom and son, with their French Canadian energy, found a way. 

No sweat ... OK, some sweat.

“She’s driving my big truck around in the city and I was a little bit nervous sometimes,” Morin said. “But she did a great job. She was away from home for a month. She’s been awesome, my family has been so supportive of me.”

With Mother’s Day Sunday followed by his mom’s birthday Monday, Morin is reminded of his gratitude for the support.

Morin began playing hockey at a young age.

“I was already playing on the pond and stuff, skating, then started playing minor hockey around 5,” Morin said. “My mom really liked it right at the beginning. I really loved it. She drove me around all those rinks the whole time. Love driving.”

Morin’s mother and father Pascal, both of whom grew up on a farm, started their own catering business as their son took on hockey. Work did not stop them from traveling to see Morin’s games. They hit the road when Morin played junior hockey for the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic. After he was selected by the Flyers in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft and turned pro in 2015-16, they would trek to Allentown, Pennsylvania, for Phantoms games.

“One thing with us, it’s for sure, is we’re not scared of traveling,” Morin said. “My mom and dad drove 10 hours to Allentown every two or three weeks to come see me. Even if they don’t really speak English that much, they’re not shy to try. They can still get around pretty good. They’re not shy to try to understand the language.

“It’s not an easy job, especially with my parents being really busy with the business, they were starting a new business when I was younger and working a lot. My grandma and grandpa helped a lot. When I was in junior hockey, my parents never missed a game. If the game was like six hours away, they were driving and going to see my games. ... I’ve had a lot of really close support from my parents.”

Ahead of the Flyers’ 2020-21 season finale Monday, Morin has already played a career-high 20 games after playing only nine over the previous four seasons. He scored his first career goal March 27, a third-period game-winner as the Flyers beat the Rangers, 2-1, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Twenty games and a goal may not seem like notable numbers, but they mark monumental progress and dogged perseverance by the 25-year-old Morin.

"He’s a good, big, young Frenchman from the farm," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in March. "Just a wholesome young man that everybody that’s gotten to know him, really likes.”

Morin’s teammates know what he has endured.

“The positive attitude is pretty impressive for everything he’s gone through — all the surgeries, the issues, the injuries,” Justin Braun said Saturday. “To keep that positive attitude and show up to the rink every day, excited to be there, some guys aren’t able to do that. But he seems to enjoy every day he’s here.”

Back in May 2018, Morin tore the ACL in his right knee during a five-overtime playoff win for AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The start of his recovery began after surgeons took a piece of his patellar tendon and used it to replace the ACL.

Morin’s father came to look after him following surgery.

“It’s pretty serious,” Morin said of ACL procedures. “You just need to YouTube it and you’re going to see how serious it is.”

Unfathomably, Morin had to go through it again when he suffered the second ACL tear in the same knee during a conditioning stint game with the Phantoms in November 2019.

This time, surgeons used a piece of his hamstring tendon to replace the ACL. 

“It’s major surgery, you need help,” Morin said. “For me, I broke my jaw, I’ve got a lot of injuries, but this was the most painful, after ACL surgery.”

Morin questioned whether he would continue his career. His mother Sylvie, without question, traveled to Philadelphia.

“It was probably the hardest couple of weeks of my life after the second ACL and she was right there with me,” Morin said. “I was really lucky to have her.

“It was painful. I’ll be honest with you, it takes a couple of days to feel good. The first couple of days are so painful; it’s not fun at all.”

Morin’s mom had the great idea of her son welcoming a furry companion.

“Nala,” Morin said. “Nala the cat.”

Sylvie, Sam and Nala.

“Me and my mom were talking about it when I got my surgery,” Morin said. “She was like, ‘What are you going to do when you’re going to be alone?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ She suggested that I get a cat. I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, it’s easy to take care of and when you finish or can’t have it, we can take it to Quebec.’ So I got a cat for a year, she’s been awesome, she helped me go through so much. Now she’s back home. I haven’t seen her in a long time, but I can’t wait to go see her again.”

While the 2020-21 season has featured much-needed and deserved highlights for Morin, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. In the offseason, the Flyers suggested Morin try a position switch. He transitioned to left winger and played four games there with the Flyers while also spending time in Lehigh Valley. 

Morin was open-minded about the idea.

"I'm fighting for my career right now,” he said in December.

But he eventually made his way back to defense, where the Flyers have needed him and where he has felt most comfortable again.

Morin’s mom has offered constant encouragement through it all.

“There’s been a lot of doubts with my career,” Morin said. “Going through the pain again of the freaking ACL, even right now, a rehab season, it’s not as easy as it sounds. My mom, my family, my parents, they’ve always been with me since the beginning of my career, with the ups and downs. Even when I was really low, they were always there. 

“Even like before training camp, when they told me about being a forward — I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try it,’ but there was a lot of doubt. Some weeks I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this,’ but my mom has always been there on the phone and giving me those nice words. ‘You have nothing to lose, just go out there and have fun.’ I remember as soon as I stepped on the ice in training camp, I was like, ‘Man, I love that game.’ Good thing I didn’t give up, I just love it.”

Teammates were ecstatic for Morin when he scored his first career goal. His mom and dad were, too, even though they couldn’t see it in person.

“My parents were really proud of me,” Morin said. “It’s been a really long ride. For me, I don’t really care about the goal, I just like hockey — do the thing I love. ... It’s just crazy that I went through a season and I didn’t get hurt.

“For my parents, my mom, it was a special moment for sure. They were really happy for me, but they’re happy every night when I’m in the lineup and playing the game I love.”

With the crammed schedule and the Canada-U.S. border challenges created by COVID-19, Morin said he hasn’t seen his father since August. He last saw his mother in November, when she was able to come to Philadelphia to help him move out of his apartment and into a new place.

“I FaceTime the family all the time,” Morin said. “I’m really close to them, I FaceTime the cat. With technology, I can feel them, like they’re close to me. But I can’t wait to see them in person, for sure.”

He’s uncertain when he’ll be able to visit home after the season.

“Even when the season is done, with Canada, the COVID rules are so strict,” Morin said. “We’ll figure it out.”

They’ll find a way.

“My mom is just such a loving person with a lot of energy,” Morin said. “When I see her, even in ups and downs, the energy she brings in the room is amazing. I try to bring the same thing, when I go to work and I love what I do, just bring that same kind of energy with the boys. Just being happy and bring some happiness to the room or just being funny. That’s what my mom brings in life and I think that’s what I’ve learned from her.”

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