Thursday, December 24, 2009

1973-74 Minnesota Fighting Saints George Morrison Jersey

Born on this date in 1948, George Morrison became a star for the University of Denver Pioneers of the WCHA and later played in the NHL and the WHA.

In his freshman season at DU, Morrison scored 58 points on 40 goals and 18 assists in just 32 games, leading the WCHA in scoring. Denver would reach the NCAA National Championship game against Cornell and their goaltender and future NHL star and Hall of Famer Ken Dryden. Morrison would score the Pioneers second goal of the game enroute to a 4-3 victory and the title.

"It's funny how I wound up at Denver," Morrison said. "I'd played around my home town [Scarborough, Ontario], but I had no particular plans. Then a friend who had gone to Denver asked me if I'd like to play hockey in college. I said sure. Within a few days I was out here taking exams. It all happened only a few weeks before school started, and I couldn't be happier."

The next season was more of the same for Morrison, as he led the WCHA in scoring with 30 goals in 32 games and a 57 point season and being named a WCHA First Team All-Star and NCAA All-American for the second consecutive season.

He would sign as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues in September of 1970 and score 15 goals and 10 assists as a rookie in 1970-71. Morrison was on the ice for Bobby Orr's famous cup winning goal in overtime and has joked "I was covering my man."

The following season with the Blues, Morrison would score 13 points in 42 games, but missed a number of games due to a bout of mononucleosis and then sat out the end of the season following a trade to the Buffalo Sabres when he refused to report to their minor league club in Rochester.

His career took a turn when he was selected by the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the 1972 WHA General Draft. With an opportunity for more playing time, Morrison signed with the Fighting Saints for the 1972-73 season. He quickly became our favorite player when growing up as impressionable young Fighting Saints fans with his iconic number 9, his offensive ability (he always seemed to score two goals when we attended games in person) and speed, which was accentuated by his long hair flying behind him, unencumbered by a helmet.

Just look at the following photo. Our favorite player in our favorite jersey in an awesome pose that captures his focus and speed. There's no other picture that screams "hockey" to us more than this one.

Morrison would score 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 70 games in St. Paul, including the first goal against Winnipeg at the brand new St. Paul Civic Center on January 7, 1973. He would add another goal in five playoff games that season. Don't fail to notice the clear dasherboards used at the St. Paul Civic Center in the above photo, the only rink in North America with a set of them.

It was during the next season that George would achieve the finest season of his professional career and cap it off in stunning fashion. Going into the final game of the 1973-74 season against the Vancouver Blazers, Morrison had 36 goals, needing four to join teammates Mike "Shakey" Walton and former Blues teammate Wayne Connelly with 40 or more goals.

Morrison did score a power play goal at 15:42 of the second period and then rapidly got another one - just 14 seconds later after splitting the defense. No one expected what happened next, as Morrison completed a hat trick in a WHA record 43 seconds at 16:25, with all three goals coming on assists from Connelly and Bob MacMillan.

Of course, when you're hot like that your teammates will try to set you up for the rest of the night, especially knowing you need one more to reach 40, which George was later able to get, joining Connelly (42) and Walton (57) as those who hit 40 for the Fighting Saints that year.

Sadly, that remarkable record died with the WHA and is a forgotten achievement today, although Morrison's stick from that game does reside in the archives of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

He would add another 5 goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games as the Fighting Saints would defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs 4 games to 1 before losing to the eventual champion Houston Aeros in a memorable six game series that featured as much mayhem as hockey.

The 1974-75 season was another successful one for George, with 31 goals and 60 points in 76 games with another 14 points in 12 playoff games as Minnesota defeated the New England Whalers before losing to the Quebec Nordiques in six games.

Morrison was traded by the Fighting Saints to the Calgary Cowboys for John McKenzie just prior to the 1975-76 season and scored 25 goals and 32 assist for 57 points followed by 11 goals and 19 assists for 30 points in his final season as a professional in 1976-77. His final combined NHL and WHA totals are 476 games played with 140 goals and 163 assists for 303 points.

Following his playing career, he was active in sports management and was a volunteer coach for the Union College women's team in Schenectady, New York. “He was everything to our team — a leader, a mentor, a teacher, a father figure and a coach,” said Union head coach Claudia Asano.

Sadly, Morrison passed away on November 12, 2008 at age 59 from a brain tumor.

Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Minnesota Fighting Saints George Morrison jersey as worn during the season he scored 40 goals, the highest total of his career. This jersey features our all-time favorite logo in sports history. The Little Saint is a real classic, with his Dennis the Menace look, bent wire halo and untied skates in juxtaposition to his angelic wings. One can only imagine how much money could have been made with that logo combined with today's marketing expertise if it had been introduced in the last 10 years.

It was this jersey that inspired the look of the Charlestown Chiefs jerseys of the movie Slap Shot, as the real Johnstown Jets were a minor league affiliate of the Fighting Saints and used the Fighting Saints jersey colors and template for their jerseys at the time the movie was made.

Our jersey was obtained a number of years ago from a company that is no longer around that specialized in obscure, vintage jerseys when Fighting Saints jerseys were nearly impossible to get. We chose this one because it featured a beautifully sewn and embroidered twill crest, which happens to be in our opinion the single greatest logo for a hockey team ever.

Any other Fighting Saints jerseys available back then had, at best, the logo screen printed onto a piece of twill, which was then sewn onto the jersey, with some of them just being a white circular patch! Others were printed or heat sealed directly to the jersey and would be lucky to survive any washings before cracking or peeling off over time.

The logo on our jersey also accurate to the originals with it's white skates, no halo and without the "Saints" name on the mascot's chest, unlike many other reproductions based on the version of the logo used for the team's letterhead and merchandise, which had the team name in the "S" logo, black skates and the bent wire halo over the mascots head, none of which were found on the actual Fighting Saints jerseys.

While the company who produced our jersey is no longer around, you can purchase your own high quality Fighting Saints jersey from our friends at They even offer the original variation worn by the Fighting Saints during the first half of their inaugural season in 1972.

Minnesota Fighting Saints 1972-76 jersey photo Minnesota Fighting Saints 72-76 F.jpg
Minnesota Fighting Saints 1972-76 jersey photo Minnesota Fighting Saints 72-76 B.jpg

It's impossible to do any story on Morrison without relating "The Hot Dog Incident", as told by George himself.

"I was never coach Scotty Bowman's favourite player," said Morrison, "and I was even less popular with him after a caper I pulled during a game at the Los Angeles Forum." "During the game in L.A. it looked like the same old story — I was told to suit up but not to count on getting much ice time."
"It was late in the game and I'd warmed the bench all evening. Suddenly I realized I was very hungry. Well, next to me at the end of the bench I saw an usher eyeing my hockey stick. So I whispered to him, 'Pal, get me a hot dog, will you, and I'll give you my stick after the game.' The usher was back in a flash with the hot dog, and I was just sneaking my first bite (I waited until Scotty was looking the other way) when Bowman yelled at me, 'Morrison, get out there and kill that penalty!' "

"What to do? As I leaped over the boards, I stuffed the hot dog down the cuff of my hockey glove. I didn't know what else to do with it. And wouldn't you know, seconds later, someone slammed into me in front of our net. Hit me so hard the hot dog popped free of my glove and flew up in the air. Our goalie made a stab at it and tried to knock it to one side while the other players ducked the flying relish and mustard."

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