It's like old times as Brad Morrison prepares for the next step in his hockey career by returning to the place he spent his childhood.
The 15 year old was a first-round (seventh overall) 2012 Western Hockey League draft pick of the Prince George Cougars. Fans of the WHL hockey club will have the opportunity to watch Morrison progress this season when he straps on his skates with the Cariboo Cougars of the B.C. Major Midget League. It's not official yet, but the odds of seeing Morrison on the back of a Cariboo Cougars' jersey in 2012-13 are pretty good.
It's no surprise why Morrison appeals to both Cougars teams.
"I like to win," said Morrison.
The five-foot-10, 150-pound centre scored 90 goals and had 170 points with the Okanagan Hockey Academy last season.
"I'm a better all-around player after being there," said Morrison.
He lived in Prince George until he was 12 when he moved to Kelowna but his memories of his hometown are still vivid.
"I still remember exactly where my old house was," said Morrison. "Everything is still the same; nothing has really changed. It's great to comeback to a town like this where you pretty much know everybody."
The name Morrison is no stranger in Prince George hockey circles.
His dad Doug was a second-round (36th overall) draft pick of the Boston Bruins in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, playing 23 games in the NHL but spending most of his 10-year professional career in the American Hockey League. He had seven goals and 10 points in 18 games with the Bruins during the 1980-81 season. He also spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Spruce Kings, 1997-98 and 2002-04.
Prince George hockey fans may recall his older brother Curt Morrison when he played for the Spruce Kings from 2004-07 before wrapping up his junior A career with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL from 2007-09.
"I coached Curt in midget for a year," said Cariboo head coach Trevor Sprague. "We had a good relationship. He was a kid I always loved coaching.
"Brad is similar to his brother in the mannerisms that he brings to the game," he added. "They're competitive and they like to win and they're good people."
Morrison already has a favourite memory of the CN Centre - home of the WHL Cougars and where the Cariboo Cougars will play some of their games this season as the Kin 1 arena undergoes renovation - recalling the electric atmosphere in the building when his brother was playing for the Kings in the 2007 RBC Cup in the 1-0 five-overtime win over the Camrose Kodiaks.
"I remember I was there and I was playing mini sticks with my friend in between periods, but not during the game, because we wanted to see who was going to score that goal," said Morrison, nine at the time.
Sprague said Morrison is a player who personifies the Cariboo Cougars style of game.
"He's a northern guy, so he plays a northern style of hockey," said Sprague. "He reads the ice well and he's ultra skilled. He's got a nose for the net and he's got a nose for where his players are out there on the ice. He's working on his defensive part of his game and you can see that out there on his back check where he's picking guys up and being responsible. For a young player to be able to do that at his age and the calibre of hockey that he's played that's pretty good."
Veteran Cougars player Jake LeBrun played on a line with Morrison for Team White at the August training camp Cariboo held on the weekend at the Elksentre and Prince George Coliseum and the two had instant chemistry.
"Jake's been a good leader so far and kind of put Brad under his wing a little bit here throughout the camp to make sure he's comfortable," said Sprague, adding Morrison had three assists in his first scrimmage, two coming LeBrun goals.
After watching the Vancouver NW Giants skate around the ice as B.C. champions for the past three seasons, Sprague said he's crossing his fingers Morrison may be a lucky charm.
"He's here to play with good players and make himself better and make everybody better around him and make our team better," said Sprague. "He might be the key to maybe beating the Giants. Who knows?"