Flyers defenseman Samuel Morin received worse than a lump of coal for Christmas. In the midst of the holiday season, he received news that his playing days were over.
Morin had suffered two ACL injuries within 19 months and had undergone another knee surgery in September that was going to rule him out for the 2021-22 season. He said he rests easy knowing he did everything he could to get back on the ice, but ultimately, there wasn’t anything else he could do. The damage to his knee was irreparable and unrecoverable, and the doctor told him it was time to “shut it down.”
At the time, Morin said he took it really hard. But five months later, he’s had time to come to terms with his situation and is determined to use his journey to help others.
“I think coming back from all those injuries, being a first rounder like myself, a lot of expectations and all that stuff, I’m sure I could help some some young players with that in the minors,” Morin said.
The Flyers selected Morin with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. He signed a three-year entry-level deal but returned to play for Rimouski Océanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada in World Juniors.
In the 2015-2016 season, Morin joined the Phantoms, and he was called up by the Flyers at the end of the 2016-2017 season. For the next five years, he was back and forth between the NHL and AHL. His development was slowed by a season-ending knee injury in 2018 and an ACL injury in 2019.
Ahead of the 2020 season, the Flyers decided to have the 6-foot-7 Morin try out as a left winger instead of a defenseman. Morin accepted that challenge because it was an opportunity to play, but it was difficult.
“I was like ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do?’ ” Morin recalled. “Sometimes I just wanted to quit everything. I was like, ‘This is not me.’ I wanted to be a D-man.”
However, his family supported him, and he kept pushing to make them proud. On Jan. 30, 2021, against the New York Islanders, he made his debut as a forward. The next month, he returned to the AHL to play defense, and then he was injured again before the next season.
At that point, Morin had an idea that his career was in jeopardy. But he kept pushing, doing everything he could to return. His family and “every single one of [his] teammates from junior hockey to the NHL” supported him the entire way, helping him through the days when he could barely move from the pain.
Even though the idea of retirement had whispered through his brain, the news was still devastating. He’s going to miss the brotherhood, the road trips, and the locker room jokes. But he’s moving forward with pride.
“I’m really, really proud of myself,” Morin said. “Honestly, the pain I went through physically and emotionally, a lot with those injuries, I was always coming back, always smiling at the rink.
“So I’m happy about my career. I think I gave it my all. And the same thing is gonna go for what’s next. I’m gonna give it my all. I’m gonna give it all my heart and I gonna have the same attitude.”
In all, Morin played 29 NHL games, all with the Flyers, and 177 games with the Phantoms. He scored his lone NHL goal against the New York Rangers on March 27, 2021.
Morin isn’t quite sure what’s next, although he knows he wants to continue in hockey. He looks at other former Flyers whose injuries forced them to retire young, like Marc-André Boudron, who became a general manager and Eric Wellwood, who became an ECHL head coach, for inspiration.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said he’s been having conversations with Morin to figure out what he wants to do and to see if he wants to continue working within the Flyers organization. Morin said Fletcher is a “really good person” who respects what has happened in Morin’s career.
He will continue to try to figure out the next step, but for now, he’s spending time in Quebec at home with his family. After the long journey through rehab and surviving a pandemic, being with his parents and his sister is what’s best for his mental state, he said. He’s only 26, he pointed out, so he has time to think. But he knows one thing for certain.
“Hockey is my life,” Morin said. “And it’s going to stay my life.”