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Morrison happy to be home

by Lindsay Kramer ||

morrisonOne by one, goalie Mike Morrison has waved goodbye to many of his friends this summer.

And he couldn’t be happier.

Morrison has several hockey-playing pals who have decided to play overseas in 2009-10. He wishes them all well. Secure with a free-agent deal with the Albany River Rats after a so-so experience playing abroad last year, he is ecstatic to trade a long plane ride for several short bus trips.

"I see all my friends going to Europe this season," said Morrison. "I’m so thrilled I’m not going with them. I’m so relieved to be here."

Morrison played in Slovenia and Sweden last season. It was an adventure that soothed at least part of him. After bouncing around with three different ECHL teams and four AHL squads since turning pro in 2002-03, he had nothing against new experiences in general.

"I’m a renaissance man. I want to try things," he said. "That’s what it’s all about — the journey."

The pit stops along the way can run hot and cold, though. Morrison struggled with the cultural differences overseas and grew a little weary worrying about the consistency of his paycheck. He pondered giving it another try, but the hemming and hawing stopped when the River Rats came through with their offer.

"In America, we are very fortunate," Morrison said. "It (playing abroad) just didn’t sit well with me. I’m really happy (now). I have nothing to complain about."

The Albany experiment gives Morrison a chance to get back on track what was an NHL-caliber career. He’s played in 29 NHL games, with Ottawa, Phoenix and Edmonton. His most prolific NHL stretch came in 2005-06, when he appeared in 21 games with the Oilers, going 10-4-2 record with a 2.83 goals-against average and an .884 save percentage.

"Goalie is a tough position," said Morrison. "There’s a lot of great goalies out there. Every year is a different chapter, a different story. I go to Albany saying, ‘I’m going out there and work my butt off. I’m going to try to help whatever team I’m on win.’ I haven’t felt this positive going into a season."
Raymond heads to Hamilton

The power structure on the Hamilton bench this season will be something of a reversal of form.

New coach Guy Boucher has named Martin Raymond as one of his assistants. They have known each other for about 25 years. For the last 14 years Raymond was the coach of McGill University, and one of his assistants was Boucher. The two also were teammates at McGill, and Raymond was Boucher’s coach at the school.

Now, of course, Boucher will be calling all the shots.

"He’s the boss now. That’s fine with me," Raymond said. "I have no problems with that. One of my goals was to work with a strong head coach. I get that opportunity with Guy."

The Bulldogs’ new coaching alignment is something of a called shot by Boucher. When Boucher coached in the QMJHL, Raymond said Boucher used to wonder if, when he got his chance in the pros, whether Raymond would go with him. Raymond would joke about that speculation, but never doubted Boucher was serious.

"It’s not like (the Hamilton hiring) was coming out of the blue, but until you are faced with the situation, it is just talking," Raymond said. "I shrugged it aside. I said, ‘We’ll talk about it when it happens.’ I expect it (the AHL) to be a tough task, but at the same time fun and exciting. That’s why we do what we do."
Portland gets a new voice

One of the Buffalo Sabres’ most promising prospects, someone with very talented bloodlines, is being groomed in the farm team’s broadcast booth.

Mark Jeanneret has been named the new voice of the Portland Pirates. Jeanneret, 41, is the son of Rick Jeanneret, the legendary Sabres play-by-play man. Jeanneret comes to the Pirates from the Erie Otters of the OHL, where he served as the director of media relations and play-by-play announcer for 12 seasons. Prior to joining the Otters, Jeanneret was the radio host and producer for the Sabres, handling pre-game, intermissions and post-game on all radio broadcasts.

"He (Rick) has been a hands-off type of father as far as my career is concerned," said Mark. "He knows the game is the game. If you are going to call the game, you have to have a feel for the game. I’m not sure that’s something that can be taught. I’ve been told that I sound like he did when he was younger. I’ve always loved his enthusiasm. He has a lot of flashy sayings. That’s not a road I’ve gone down because I don’t want to mimic him."

Mark said the Sabres haven’t said anything to him about replacing his father when Rick retires.

"I really want to make sure my work speaks for itself," Mark said.

Pasma moves up

Replacing Jim Mill as AHL Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations came down to a matter of simply tabbing someone who had paid his dues in a lower league and was ready to be a call-up.

The AHL logically named Rod Pasma as Mill’s successor. Pasma will be responsible for management of the AHL’s officiating program, including recruiting, hiring and assigning on-ice officials to supplement those in the NHL officials’ development program. Pasma will also oversee the AHL’s disciplinary process for fines and suspensions and will develop and execute the league’s regular-season and playoff schedules.

Pasma, 37, comes to the AHL following seven seasons with the ECHL, where he most recently served as senior vice president of hockey operations. That job had many of the same responsibilities as his new one and carried the added bonus of frequent interactions with AHL front-office officials and the men who would go on to become players and coaches in the AHL.

"The perception, I think, is that I was an ideal fit for the job," Pasma said. "But there was a lot of worthy candidates for the job. It’s the same responsibilities (as in the ECHL); getting to know the league’s governing documents, that will be a bit of a transition. Those will be new challenges, ones I am looking forward to facing."