When people asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, few people actually become what they once said as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed children — except for Travis Morin and Riley Damiani.
Both Morin and Damiani started with the same seed of a goal: to be in the hockey world. And today, they’re living out those dreams from childhood, Morin as Texas Stars’ skills coach and Damiani as a Stars forward. As time goes on, the two men’s dreams continue to evolve from just being involved in hockey to pursuing higher goals within the sport.
From a young age, the two men had hockey goals; Morin was only 5 years old when he knew he wanted to have a career in hockey. His father played hockey and when his older brother started playing, Morin followed suit.
“Growing up in Minnesota, hockey is kind of a religion there,” Morin says. “(… And) I was born into it.”
After a childhood full of hockey, he went on to play hockey in college and then eventually professionally for 12 years. Morin played for the South Carolina Stingrays for two years and also played four games for the Hershey Bears before the Texas Stars launched in 2009. Morin went on to play for the Stars for the next 10 years.
When he retired in 2019, Morin was offered the position of skills coach for the Stars, allowing him to continue playing hockey as well as nurturing his love for the sport. He’s been coaching since his retirement and has enjoyed the competitiveness of it.
“Being in coaching has kept me in that competitive environment,” Morin says. “It’s not something you can replicate in any other job.”
Morin hopes to stay in Austin and continue participating in the growth of the team.
“I could still use some more years of learning, and I’m happy learning from the (other coaches),” Morin says. “In an ideal world, I would love to become the head coach for the Texas Stars… It’s become my home.”
Similarly to Morin, Damiani’s hockey dreams started at a young age — only two years earlier than Morin. At age 3, Damiani realized he wanted to not only be a professional hockey player but also a forward.
“(Being a forward) made the most sense,” Damiani says. “They get to go everywhere.”
Damiani grew up playing in the Greater Toronto Hockey League before he was signed with the Kitchener Rangers in 2016 in the Ontario Hockey League. He played for them for 3 years before signing with the Texas Stars.
Currently, Damiani is a prospect for the Dallas Stars, and he hopes to play in the NHL full-time.
“I’ve played a few games (with the Dallas Stars) but (have) never been able to sustain a full season,” Damiani says. “It takes a lot of commitment and drive to compete and be the best you can be every day.”
The Texas Stars are an affiliate of the Dallas Stars, meaning that while the two teams play in different divisions, players can move between the two teams throughout the season as needed.
“You never know when you’re going to be given the opportunity or when it will be taken from you,” Damiani says. “So (you have to) stay consistent and keep going.”
While both Morin and Damiani have future goals — Moring being Head Coach and Damiani playing for the NHL — the two still have goals in the present they’re always aiming for. Especially for the Texas Stars, winning the Calder Cup trophy is the goal.
Since the Stars’ conception, the Texas Stars have made it to the Calder Cup Finals three times, winning in the 2013-2014 season. With little time left in the season, they hope to win it a fourth time this year.
“We’ve got a really good team,” Morin says. “We want to win a championship, but we’ve got to start with the micro goals (of making it to playoffs) before we get to the big goals of finishing (the season) with a championship.”