Sean McMorrow: Belfast Giants' Sheriff
When he was growing up Sean McMorrow’s dreams of a professional ice hockey career were no different to those of any other youngster in Canada.
Kids in north-America think about scoring the goal to win the Stanley Cup in the same way as children in Northern Ireland pin their hopes on making it in English football and netting a Wembley winner.
McMorrow fell short of his ideal, he is, however, one of the lucky ones. A single game in the NHL is more than most manage and for the 28-year-old it was the end of a journey that took a different route than planned.
When the Belfast Giants face the Cardiff Devils tonight the sub-plot will be the almost inevitable contest between McMorrow and Brad Voth, but that’s not how he wants it to be.
“I started playing after my family moved from Vancouver to Toronto when I was six, which in Canada is older than most,” said the man who is known as the Sheriff.
“I’d always played in defence because I was one of the bigger guys and as you get older the bigger guys are the ones who are expected to be the more physical guys and who are expected to make the checks.
“Eventually the bigger guys are the ones who are expected to fight.
“I was 15-years-old when I had my first fight, it was at the Buffalo Sabres training camp. I fought their tough guy and beat him and that was a big deal. I had my first professional fight in the first game of the next season and it went really well.
“I wanted to get to the NHL and I got drafted by Buffalo when I was 18-years-old.
“To get to the highest level you need to have a role. There are goalscorers, some are signed to play on the penalty kill, there are stay-at-home defencemen and then there are tough guys.
“If I was going to get there then that was the way I was going to have to go.
“I am happy that I had a taste of the NHL, even if it was only one regular season game, but it was in my home city of Toronto and that meant a lot to me.”
McMorrow has taken on — and beaten — all of the toughest players in the Elite League since joining the Belfast Giants at the start of this season.
His most enjoyable moment at the Odyssey, however, came back in December when McMorrow’s name was on the scoresheet for the first time in Belfast, in an 11-3 win over the Newcastle Vipers.
“I like being known as the ‘Sheriff’ but I’d rather be the ‘Sniper’ or something like that,” said McMorrow.
“I’d much rather score a goal and shoot my glove out of the air in celebration than have a fight, but sometimes it’s necessary. Every kid that plays the game wants to be the top scorer and be skilled, but there are different roles in the team and mine is being an enforcer — and in Belfast it is cool to be that guy.”
It’s because of the role that he plays that McMorrow is one of the most popular players in the current Giants team.
He is well aware that one of his predecessors, a certain Paxton Schulte, is the club’s all-time cult hero — and Sheriff McMorrow is keen to take on that kind of celebrity status.
Quick to volunteer when there is a school visit or a trip to a youth club that needs fulfiled, it’s a case of do as I say, not do as I do for McMorrow as he sets about trying to influence the youth of Northern Ireland.
“I like to be personable and it’s good to meet people in my role,” he said.
“I want to be a role model for children. I plan to stay in Belfast for a few years and to be here during the summer, promoting the Giants and running a hockey school.”
Fighting won’t be on the coaching agenda though, despite McMorrow being the best in the business — according to the man himself.
“Hands down I am the best fighter in the league,” is his immodest declaration.