John Morris, a real ‘Golden’ Hawk
He’s been a Laurier Golden Hawk, a World Champion, the bad boy of curling and even one of Canada’s most eligible bachelors. But now, John Morris can best be described as Olympic gold medallist.
In February, Morris entered into instant stardom, as he and his team mates on Canada’s national men’s curling team, took home the Olympic gold medal, and that is a moment that the Laurier graduate will never forget.
“That was definitely one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in my life,” Morris told The Cord in a phone interview from his home in Chestermere, Alberta.
“That’s what you always dream of but actually seeing that flag go up and having that gold medal around your neck, all I could think was ‘wow.’ It was just pure elation.”
Morris began working towards that moment of elation as boy growing up in Ottawa, Ontario. A sports enthusiast throughout his youth, Morris played just about every sport that was available, with curling eventually emerging as his passion.
“My family was into sports big time, we played every sport in the book,” said Morris. “I was lucky because in Ottawa, there’s a fantastic youth curling program and that really got me hooked on the game.”
Morris decided to devote his full attention to curling at the age of 16, when the strain of balancing his athletic schedule became too demanding.
“I remember having curling tournaments and hockey tournaments on the same weekend and I would stay at hockey for the first two periods, and then I had to change into my curling gear in the car and my father was racing to a different town,” he said. “It was at that point where I really realized I had to choose one or the other and by then I knew that I wasn’t going to the NHL, so curling was what I stuck with competitively.”
While continuing to curl on the World Junior stage Morris was faced with the decision of where to continue his education and in 1999, he decided upon Laurier and enrolled in the kinesiology and physical education program.
“What really sold me on Laurier was the fact that it was a smaller university,” said Morris. “Also I knew that I still wanted to curl competitively and they were one of the only schools who expressed interest in accommodating that.”
In his five years at Laurier, Morris rarely had down time. He continued curling competitively while playing for the Hawks’ men’s curling team and handling the responsibilities of a regular student.
“I can remember writing essays and take home exams on the plane as I’m travelling across Canada, so it was definitely a challenge” said Morris. Overall, I had a phenomenal time at Laurier, I made several friends I’m still close with today, and I’ll always think of those five years as some of the best times of my life.”
After graduating from Laurier in 2003, Morris was determined to continue curling at a high level so he moved to Calgary – which was home to the top curling facilities in Canada – where he took a job as a firefighter. Competing with fellow former Hawk, Paul Moffat, Morris’s rink came within one game of qualifying for the 2006 Olympics, losing to Brad Gushue.
Shortly afterwards, Morris would receive an offer to join 2002 Olympic silver medallist Kevin Martin’s rink and that was a proposition he couldn’t refuse.
However, Morris came close to missing his shot at the 2010 Olympics altogether. Just before receiving Martin’s offer, Morris was preparing to take time off curling and move back to Ontario to attend teacher’s college.
Morris decided to stay in Alberta, where he teamed up with Martin, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert and dominated the curling scene for four years, on their way to the Olympics. It was during this time that Morris would earn his “bad boy” reputation, something he simply attributes to frustration.
“It was at the Briar in 2007, we were having a really tough tournament, losing a couple matches by literally inches,” said Morris.
“So one game against Manitoba I was upset with the way I was playing and I missed a shot so I broke it over my knee and realized right away, ‘uh oh, this might not go over so well,’ and suddenly I was the bad boy of curling.”
During this time leading up to the Olympics, Morris would also co-write a book entitled Fit To Curl, in which he draws on his kin/phys ed background to explain why curlers need to be in top physical shape and also provides a workout plan for beginners to elite level athletes.
At the Olympics, Team Canada went undefeated on their way to the gold medal, playing in front of the surprisingly rabid curling fans in Vancouver, something Morris enjoyed.
“They weren’t traditional curling fans but the energy they brought was just great,” he said. “We really enjoyed seeing that atmosphere and I think that’s something that the game really needs.”
According to Morris, the atmosphere inside the curling rink was merely a microcosm of the amazing energy that surrounded Vancouver.
“You could feel the energy in the city the entire time,” he said. “The reception and support we received was just phenomenal. Everyone was cheering hard for the country, it was just an incredibly positive vibe and it was incredible to be a part of it.”
Another memorable aspect of the Olympic experience for Morris was getting the chance to get to know other elite athletes.
“We got to bond with so many athletes, especially the women’s and men’s hockey teams, who were on the same floor as us,” he said.
“After our second or third game, we went up to the Canadian athletes lounge and Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury came up to us and said ‘great game guys,’ and that was just an amazing feeling.”
Morris even got to cap off his Olympics by celebrating the men’s hockey gold medal with the players, just a day after he had won a gold medal of his own.
“We were able to sit 10 rows up and watch Sid [Crosby] score the winner against the U.S.,” he said.
“So that night we tied one on with Sid [Crosby] and Shea Weber and a bunch of guys from the hockey team and that was just an incredible night.”
Gold medal aftermath
Coming home as an Olympic champion, life became much different for Morris’, he began to be recognized everywhere he went, signing autographs and posing for pictures, and even being named one of ET Canada’s most eligible bachelors. However, all that attention was strange for the humble curler.
“It was definitely weird,” laughed Morris. “Being a curler you’re really not a glamorous athlete like the Alex Rodriguez or Alex Ovechkin.
To receive that recognition if anything, it shows that curling is gaining some recognition, but I’m a low-key type of guy, so personally it just felt strange.”
Morris will surely be swamped with more autograph and photo requests when he returns to Waterloo on May 25 to share his Olympic experience at the annual Laurier alumni golf tournament.