Travis Morin played in just 13 National Hockey League games during his professional career.
To understand just how difficult it is to get to the sport’s top league, all you have to do is see how great a run Morin had one step down.
On Wednesday, Morin, a former Minnesota State captain and standout player, retired from pro hockey. His decision was announced by the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars, the Austin, Texas-based team Morin played with for a decade. The Stars also announced Morin will continue to work for the club in hockey operations and a front-office capacity.
“I’ve been really lucky,” Morin said in a phone interview on Thursday. “We found someplace we love and a place that wanted us. That doesn’t happen very often, being able to set up shop for 10 years in one city.”
Especially in a minor-league city.
The 35-year-old Morin retires as Texas’ regular-season franchise leader in games played (686), goals (175), assists (385) and points (560) and postseason leader in goals (23), assists (42) and points (64). He was a four-time AHL All-Star and two-year team captain who led the Stars to the AHL’s Calder Cup championship in 2014, earning league and playoff MVP honors along the way.
Morin is the only player in team history to play in all 10 of its seasons, and the Stars plan to retire his No. 23 jersey during a ceremony on Oct. 19.
“From day one, Travis helped forge a winning culture for our organization ...” Stars general manager Scott White said in a team press release. “There is no doubt that he will be remembered as a cornerstone of this franchise, and it has been a privilege to be part of his career.”
Morin ranks eighth in AHL history in games played with a single franchise. That stability is rare at a level of sport in which players are constantly moving up and down, coming and going.
“A big part of it was my wife and I and our kids really liked it,” Morin said. “There might have been some opportunities where the grass was greener, where maybe I would have had a better shot at the NHL, but I always felt I played my best where I was comfortable. I found a place to play that I loved and my family loved, and I had success personally and team-wise, and the team wanted to keep me around.”
Texas is an affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, and on Jan. 26, 2011, Morin made his NHL debut with Dallas. He played in three NHL games that season. He also got called up to the big club for four games in 2013-14 and six in 2014-15. He never scored an NHL goal but had one assist.
“Looking at my career, it’s been pretty successful,” Morin said. “A lot of ninth-round draft picks don’t ever make it to the NHL.”
Today, the NHL draft is only seven rounds.
“As good as the AHL is — and it’s a good league — you can see what the difference is,” Morin said. “It’s a testament to how hard it is to get there. I’m proud to say I made it and played a few games there. That’s something I can tell my kids and grandkids about.”
A native of Brooklyn Park, Morin played four seasons at Minnesota State, from 2003 to 2007. He scored 58 goals and had 75 assists for 133 points, a total that still ranks fourth on the program’s Division I-era scoring list.
After his college career ended, Morin, who was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2004, made his professional debut with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. He played two seasons there with a couple of stints with the AHL’s Hershey Bears before signing with Texas in 2009.
While Morin is retiring from playing, he won’t be leaving the Stars. His new task with the team will be as a skills development coach, as well as business development and community outreach.
“His accomplishments on-ice and efforts in the community have played a major role in our organization’s success,” Stars chief sales and marketing officer Michael Delay said in a press release. “He has been the face of the franchise for a decade and has made central Texas his home. We’re thrilled that he will remain a part of our family and look forward to his continued contributions to the Texas Stars in his new role.”
Morin said his decision to retire was a mutual one between him and the Stars organization, and the opportunity to stay with the club was hard to pass up, especially since he and his wife Lindsey — also a Minnesota State alum — have owned a home in the Austin area for the last three years. Two of their three sons — ages 10, 5 and 3 — will be in school there this fall.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Morin said. “It will be good to see how the other side of it works and see if I have interest in doing that for the long term.”
For more college hockey coverage, read Shane Frederick’s Puckato blog and follow him on Twitter @puckato.