Before Dallas Stars fans got to fantasize about the type of player John Klingberg might become, before they watched Jamie Benn grow from quiet, talented rookie to Art Ross winner, even before Marty Turco arrived on the scene to both grow and fade in front of their eyes, there was Brenden Morrow.
Morrow wasn't among the first class of players drafted and debuted after the Stars moved to Dallas - that honor goes to Jamie Langenbrunner - but he was the first home-grown captain of the Dallas era and a player that remains extremely close to the hearts of long-time Stars fans.
Now 36 and the oldest player on the Tampa Bay Lightning by five years, Morrow is four wins away from the Stanley Cup, the closest he's been to the trophy since he was a rookie in 2000 when the Stars lost in six games to the New Jersey Devils. The Bolts will face the Chicago Blackhawks for the championship starting next week.
Not only would a win make Morrow the 27th member of the so-called Triple Gold Club (made up of players and coaches who have won a World Championship gold, an Olympic gold and the Stanley Cup), but it would also be greeted with much joy among Stars fans, a handful of whom have embraced #TeamGetMorrowACup on social media.
The phrase grizzled veteran seems built for the current version of Morrow, who now sports a bit of grey in his playoff beard. He might not seem like an obvious fit on the Lightning, given that these Bolts are build around speed and high-end scoring ability, but Tampa coach Jon Cooper said Morrow has been an integral part of what's made the Lightning work these playoffs.
I look at guys like Morrow where you have a group of players that have a little speed, a little skill, well, who is going to be that guy that goes to those dirty areas? Who is going to be that physical guy? Who is going to be the guy in the locker room that, when things go a little bit awry, that can calm guys down? That's Brenden Morrow.
Given all that, it's worth a look back at Morrow's career with the Stars to understand why he was (and remains, even on other teams) such a fan favorite.
Dallas drafted Morrow with the 25th overall pick in 1997, one pick from the end of the first round and sandwiched between Jean-Francois Damphousse and Kevin Grimes. Here he is as a slightly pudgy, very excited teenager being drafted:
He made the jump to professional hockey at the end of his junior career with the Portland Winter Hawks and spent only nine games in the IHL before joining the Stars for good. In that 1999-2000 season, Morrow had 14 goals and 33 points in 64 games and six points in the playoffs. He broke a bone in his ankle in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Avalanche but only missed two games, returning in Game 4.
From there, he moved into prime position in Stars/North Stars franchise history. While not quite Mike Modano, who continues to lead the team in virtually all categories, Morrow is in the top 10 of a large number of Stars franchise records, including games played (5th, 835), goals (t7th, 243), assists (10th, 285), points (8th, 528), game-winning goals (2nd, 43) and penalty minutes (4th, 1203 among others.
Before injuries took their toll on him in the back half of his career, Morrow was an extremely dangerous, if undersized, power forward. He could score, create and fight when the occasion called for it, and he was sound defensively, ending up with votes for the Selke Trophy in six of his seasons in the Metroplex.
Notably, he was often at his best in the playoffs, whether that meant scoring game-winning goals deep into the deepest overtime games, laying out the opposition with big hits or awesome things like this:
As the team moved away from the 1999 Cup champions and into a new era, Morrow came to emblemize the style of play the team was going for. That transition wasn't handled as smoothly as it could be by management - the transfer of the captaincy from Modano to Morrow in particular was a little bit of a public relations mess - but no one could argue Morrow left all possible effort, and occasionally a piece of his body, on his ice for the Stars.
He could have been much higher up some of the franchise lists if not for two bad-luck injuries, including a skate cut to the wrist that cost him most of the 2006-07 season and an even more devastating ACL tear in 2008-09 that seemed to mark the end of his days as an elite forward.
Morrow played four more seasons in Dallas after that knee injury, including a very respectable 33-goal, 56-point season in 2010-11 on a team that really should have made the playoffs. But even though the end to ownership issues had finally arrived, it was clear by the trade deadline in 2012-13 that the Stars were going to say goodbye to their captain. Morrow was on the back end of his career and a free-agent to be, and the Stars were going much younger at forward behind a core headlined by Benn.
After a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Morrow became a journeyman, bouncing to the St. Louis Blues that offseason before joining the Lightning. He clearly isn't what he once was - few high-grit power forwards are after nearly 1,000 NHL games - but he may be exactly what the Bolts need at this point.
And it's that fact that has many Stars fans pulling for the Lightning to strike again for their second Stanley Cup.