Coming Full Circle

After Three Decades, Mark Morris Returns to Appleton Arena

Beth Spadaccini ’11

He’s been told that he is Intimidating.

But when you sit down with Mark Morris, the new Charles W. Appleton men’s ice hockey coach, you don’t feel intimidated… You feel his enthusiasm for this next chapter, and it is infectious.

That excitement spread throughout campus and beyond early in the 2016-17 season, including a weekend sweep at home on October 14-15, and an 9-5-4 record, 6-1-2 in the ECAC, by the middle of December.

“Coaching at Appleton is a real familiar feeling: the sights and the sounds and the smells of the rink bring back a lot of real positive memories for me both as a young player and also as a coach,” he explains.

“Up until now I’ve been really happy with the progress we’ve made. We’ve got several of the freshmen playing real key positions for us, and they’ve done an outstanding job,” Morris says. “It’s certainly a welcome sign for our team to find a way with young guys. We’re really looking forward to continued progress. I think every time out, we’re getting better.”

Having served as an assistant under Marsh from 1985 to 1988, Morris is familiar with the rich history and traditions that have been built in the confines of Appleton Arena. He witnessed what he describes as the “blue-collar mentality” of St. Lawrence hockey first hand.

“There were so many impactful moments that greased the skids for the rest of my career that happened here,” Morris says, noting that the opportunity for his career to come full circle has been one of the most intriguing parts of his new role. “The successful teams that I had the good fortune of being part of, and the ones that I competed against, brought an honest 200-foot game.”

Morris left St. Lawrence following the 1988 team’s NCAA runner-up performance for the head coaching job at rival Clarkson University. In the intervening 28 years, he became the only coach to win 300 games at both the collegiate and the professional level.

He was a head coach in the American Hockey League (AHL) and an assistant in the National Hockey League (NHL). And while he has a pair of Stanley Cup rings from his time in the Los Angeles Kings organization, he’s more likely to mention the numerous St. Lawrence alumni that have been a part of NHL championship teams or pursued careers as broadcasters, coaches, general managers, owners and players. His favorite Joe Marsh quote, “it’s better to be humble than get humbled,” may have something to do with that.

“[They have] such a wide spectrum of roles and areas of proficiency [and they] all started in one place,” Morris says, talking about the Saints hockey alumni network. “Their persona is successful. They’re part of what the fabric of St. Lawrence hockey is all about.”

His familiarity with the University, the program, and the North Country are helping him recruit new players into such elite company. When they get to St. Lawrence, Morris wants to develop the whole player, because it isn’t his team; it’s theirs.

“I can help them get there, but ultimately if you play hard for the guy next to you, you breed that synergy in the locker room and there’s ownership,” he explains. “When they embrace that and realize that their destiny is going to be influenced by certain leaders pulling guys up, it’s a pretty special thing.”

The head coaching job at St. Lawrence gave Morris the opportunity to return home to Massena, where his family lived while he was on the road for more than a decade. But, the real draw of the job was a return to college hockey in the North Country, where the fans’ passion for the game is one of the defining characteristics of the St. Lawrence experience.

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