Aspen’s Henry Morrison signs to play junior hockey next season in Missoula
Aspen’s Henry Morrison is allowing his dream of playing hockey to take him to Montana, where beginning in the fall he will play junior hockey for the Missoula Bruins. He made it official by signing with the team earlier this week.
“It’s been a dream since I was a little kid to keep playing after high school,” Morrison told the Aspen Times. “The whole college decision and all that has been stressing me out, so to know what I’m doing next year is big. It helps out a lot.”
Tier III junior hockey exists as a pathway to advance to the more competitive Tier I or II levels, or to land on a college team. Athletes can play junior hockey until they are 20.
Currently a senior at Aspen High School, Morrison was a standout for the Skiers and grew up playing in the Aspen Junior Hockey organization. While attending and possibly playing in college will remain his long-term goal, taking a gap year or two to play junior hockey will allow him to pursue other hockey options down the line.
He gave a lot of the credit to AJH executive director Shaun Hathaway for making it possible.
“Really, Shaun Hathaway made it all happen,” Morrison said. “We talked about it a couple of weeks ago. He was able to make some calls for me and I got up there last weekend to go talk to the coach.”
Morrison liked what he saw in Missoula. The Bruins compete in the North American 3 Hockey League, which is one of two USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III junior leagues. This past season the league had 30 teams from across the country, and is expected to add six more for this upcoming season.
The Bruins went 27-19-1 last season and made the playoffs out of the Frontier Division.
“The management and the ownership are really good. The coach is amazing. They have really good facilities. They have an off-ice facility, full-time trainers,” Morrison said. “It was about finding one program that was going to be really well run and a really good fit for me, so I wasn’t looking at other programs once I found this one.”
Morrison, who played center in high school and leans more toward the offense, said he doesn’t yet know how the Bruins will use him. He will spend much of the summer training in order to prepare for a more physical form of hockey compared to what he experienced with the Skiers and with AJH.
“It’s going to be another added level of physicality and speed and size. It will be fun hockey,” Morrison said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to get up there and make an impact wherever they want to play me.”
Morrison will live with a host family while in Missoula and will be asked to participate in numerous community service activities, such as reading to preschoolers and teaching hockey to young kids.
“I’m very excited for Henry and the amazing opportunity that he’s earned,” Hathaway said in a press release. “I have no doubt that he’ll make an instant impact on the Missoula organization, and I look forward to making a trip north to watch him play next season.”
Morrison will report to camp in August. The season begins in September and runs through March. After that, he’ll have more decisions to make, such as stick around for a final year in junior hockey or possibly head to college, whether hockey continues to be an option or not.
“It will definitely be something I’m talking about next spring,” he said. “Just keep playing competitive hockey as long as I can and see where it takes me. Maybe I’ll get a spot to play in college somewhere.”
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Season B, the normal winter sports season, is fast approaching the finish line. The Aspen High School boys basketball team will play its final regular season game Saturday at home against Moffat County.