Morin goes out same way he persevered: smiling, grateful and looking forward


Samuel Morin won't hang his head.

He hardly ever did and he won't now.

Life can be cruel, whipping adversity at the 6-foot-6 defenseman from every angle. But it's hard to keep the big guy down.

Despite his NHL dream being cut short at only 26 years old and 29 games, Morin is far from down.

He's pushing forward the only way he knows how — with a positive attitude, a genuine appreciation for the good and a smile on his face.

Morin found out in December his playing career was coming to an end, a harsh reality and an end result of two torn ACLs in his right knee over a span of 19 months. The damage was no longer bearable or capable to play through.

"I think in life, you kind of need to assert yourself. You look yourself in the mirror every night before going to bed. I think for myself, I gave it absolutely everything, absolutely everything," Morin said Thursday in the wake of his retirement. "I played hurt for so long, I was really banged up, my knee was really bad, even last year I played hurt. My meniscus was really banged up, almost torn. It was torn actually.

"I just played hurt. I really, really wanted to be a hockey player, but at the same time, this year when I got hurt again before training camp, I kind of knew it was pretty bad."

After playing a career-high 20 games in 2020-21, the 2013 first-round pick signed a one-year contract extension and was slated to be the club's seventh defenseman this season. But Morin needed a clean-out procedure on his right knee Sept. 10 and his recovery ultimately hit an impenetrable roadblock.

"I was telling myself it was going to be fine, but around Christmas, I saw a doctor in New York and he told me to shut it down, I should shut it down," Morin said. "My knee was really in bad condition. That's what it is. You just need to look yourself in the mirror and I gave it my all. I'm not ashamed of myself at all, I have no regrets. I'm all good with that."

Overcoming his second ACL tear in November 2019, another surgery and more grueling rehab, Morin never had it easy in the 2020-21 season, even starting the year with a switch to left winger.

But, back at his natural position, he experienced triumph on March 27, 2021. Morin scored his first career NHL goal, a third-period game-winner to give the Flyers a 2-1 decision over the Rangers at home.

There was a limited capacity at the Wells Fargo Center because of COVID-19 restrictions. The sparse crowd still made the moment special. His teammates did, too.

Morin, a French Canadian with infectious energy, smiled Thursday as he expressed gratitude for his mom, dad, younger sister and teammates.

"Both of them are a big part of why I came back every time," Morin said. "My family, I remember a couple of times, when they told me I was going to be a forward — I accepted it obviously because I needed to get an opportunity to play — but I was like, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do?' I remember sometimes I just wanted to quit everything, I was like, 'Man, this is not me, I want to be a D-man.' But my family was like, 'Just stay right with it and keep doing what you're doing.'

"Family is always the background in the career but they're always here no matter what. My parents were really, really supportive of me every time. I know they're proud of me because they know what I went through with the pain and all that stuff because I told them everything. Like, 'I can barely walk, it hurts,' all that stuff.

"Same thing goes with teammates. They're around and they know what I went through and I talk to them a lot. My teammates, every single one of them, from junior hockey to my little bit of NHL experience, they've been what I love. I love that brotherhood of going on the road trips, all that stuff, in the locker room, joking around. This is something I'm going to miss a lot, like a lot — my teammates. I've been so lucky to be here with the Flyers because I have some really, really good guys. I'm really grateful for it."

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

Morin wants to stay in the game he loves. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has had a couple of preliminary conversations with Morin about him potentially working for the organization in the future.

"It's something I'm going to need to analyze this summer, I'm going to take my time," Morin said. "I had a really good talk, before I left Philly, with Chuck. I think he's a really, really good person, he understands my situation. I think he respected what happened with my career. Coming back from all those injuries, big and a first-rounder like myself, a lot of expectation and all that stuff, I think I could help some young players with that, like in the minors and all that stuff."

With his story and experience, Morin knows he has plenty to offer.

To no surprise, he's not disappointingly looking back; he's eagerly looking forward.

"I'm really, really proud of myself," Morin said. "The pain I went through physically and then mentally, a lot. With all those injuries, I was always coming back, I was always smiling at the rink, I was happy to be there. I'm happy about my career, I think I gave it my all.

"The same thing's going to go for what's next: I'm going to give it my all, I'm going to give it all my heart, I'm going to have the same attitude. The only reason why I stayed around those years was because of my attitude. I think it can show a lot of the young players a little bit of what you need.

"Hockey is my life, it's going to stay my life. ... I want the same thing that I did when I was a little kid, I wanted to play in the NHL. I want to graduate the ranks and someday be higher up in those ranks. Hockey's always going to be a part of me."

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