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Jets’ Josh Morrissey honours late father on Hockey Fights Cancer night

WINNIPEG – Sometimes sporting a flashy suit jacket is more than just a fashion statement.

For Josh Morrissey, this is one of those times.

Morrissey entered the arena ahead of the Winnipeg Jets’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night with a purple velvet number that carries a lot of significance after losing his father Tom to the disease in August, just one day shy of his 70th birthday.

“It’s a special night. It’s a night that, for me personally and our family, it’s kind of been marked on the calendar for a while obviously,” said Morrissey pre-game. “It was a tough year, and certainly summer, for us, losing our dad. But tonight means a lot for us. It’s a lot of emotions. There’s happy thoughts, obviously some sad as well. It’s a great initiative by the NHL, and certainly going to be playing for him tonight. It’s a special night for our family.”

Tom coached Josh for a long time and that support carried on as Morrissey rose through the junior ranks and eventually made his way onto the Jets.

“Obviously the reason it’s special is the biggest connection between my Dad and I was hockey and the game,” said Josh. “I wouldn’t be here without him helping me and coaching me to go after my dreams. Obviously, that’s where the connection starts. So many memories throughout the years along the road to getting here.

“It’s been pretty crazy, there’s so many people that have been touched by cancer, within their families, friends. Tonight is all about keeping those people in our memories and trying to keep the faith for people that are battling cancer, and continue to try and raise money to find better treatments and help for people. It’s a big night, and one that, like I said, is special for a lot of folks.”

Tom also had an impact on Morrissey developing his style and fashion sense and that’s part of how the idea of auctioning off a suit with the liner signed by his teammates came about.

“I was just thinking about ways, something you could do to make it a little bit more special. For us, my dad was in the financial world so he always wore suits,” said Morrissey. “Growing up, when we had to get our first dress shirts, ties, whatever, for hockey, he was always the one kind of taking care of us. First suits, all that kind of stuff. It was always important to him, he was always dressed sharp. I just figured it would be a nice tribute to him to get a jacket done up for the night and auction it off with the proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society. So that was kind of the genesis behind the idea. It’s come together. It’s a little more wild of a colour than something he would wear, but I think he’d be pretty proud of that.”

Tom Morrissey spent a lot of time around Winnipeg and made an impact on those who met him.

“He was always a happy guy, a very nice guy to talk to,” said Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers. “My dad, like you said, is a hockey coach. I think our dads were pretty similar in the way they tried to find a way to be the dad, and the coach, at the same time. They are dads, they try to help us in any way to fulfill our dreams. That’s special.”

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Tom Morrissey was known for his gregarious nature and this is definitely one of those cases where the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

“We don’t spend a whole lot of time interacting with parents,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “You get the father’s trip every once in a while. And more the interactions with your family, maybe, in the family room. So that would be the story, always so positive and so upbeat about the Jets and how his son was handled.

“You get kind of a high pick come in and it wasn’t an easy, necessarily straight line and you have experiences over the course of your career of moms and dads not understanding why that, the day after the draft, he wasn’t first-line centre or whatever. He was always so very positive about the direction, really liked what was going on. Really positive feedback with him and I think that attitude you see in Josh. He’s always a really upbeat guy coming to work, excited to work. He’s a good man.”

Tina Kompon, the wife of Jets associate coach Jamie Kompon, is battling cancer right now and receiving treatment back home in California.

That’s kept Jamie away from the team for all but a handful of games in California, but he remains heavily involved in terms of interacting with the coaching staff.

And the Kompon family has served as an inspiration throughout the entire season.

“So for Tina and Jamie, it’s a significant battle they’ve been fighting for a long time. It’s been years now,” said Maurice. “And if you’re going to try and find an example — hopefully you never have to go through it — but if you have to and you were going to try and find an example of people continuing to live and fight and experiencing life and part of other people’s lives, it would be the two of them.

“It’s incredible to watch how productive their lives have been and they’ve been battling this for a long time. It’s almost an inspiration, right? There’s not a lot of days where you have an excuse to get out of bed late because he isn’t. She isn’t. You need to get your but out of bed because Jamie has already sent you 10 things that you got to look at and his five texts saying, ‘Have you seen it yet? Have you watched the video yet?’ Oh, man. Jamie’s work ethic from afar would astound you.”

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Without going into great detail, Ehlers and Maurice both touched on family members that were dealing with cancer, acknowledging the universal nature of never being that far removed from someone who is going through a challenging time.

“My family has been in this battle for some years now,” said Ehlers. “This is always a special night, it is for everyone, everyone’s got somebody who’s fighting.”

Evenings like this one can help in the healing process and allow people to realize they don’t have to go through this battle alone.

“I don’t know anybody that doesn’t (have someone touched by cancer). We have somebody in our family right now and it’s serious. It’s everywhere,” said Maurice. “It’s something that every single person in the room, every player, trainer, coach, manager is attached to. Every one of you in the room. In a difficult situation, it’s a great connector for all of us and probably everybody sitting in that building tonight.

“This is going to be the toughest game of the year because there’s probably going to be some kids come out on the ice and I’m going to be staring at my feet, for the most part, trying to get through it like everybody else. It’s tough, and then you also get inspired at the same time.”

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