Justin Morissette fielded a lot of interesting phone calls during his 27 days in Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital.
They ranged from friends and family, to prominent media figures, to the Prime Minister of Canada, all of them expressing admiration for a man whom up until recently had only been known as a local broadcaster for Sportsnet 650.
“It was a weird time for me,” said the 33 year-old Morissette, “a very surreal stretch of my life, while I was in the hospital”.
The countless calls, messages, and posts on social media poured in to thank Morissette, after he confronted a group of homophobic street preachers outside of his Vancouver apartment on August 22nd. He made it clear that he would not tolerate hate speech in his neighbourhood, and when the confrontation escalated, one of the street preachers viciously broke Morissette’s leg in two places, and dislocated his knee. After undergoing surgery, and enduring a difficult month in hospital, he begins his long, arduous recovery at home.
“I’m just happy to be out, and to be in my own space and be able to just be surrounded by home comforts.”
The outpouring of support has, of course, been massive for Morissette, but there’s one person in particular that has had maybe the biggest impact on him, and the mental aspect of his recovery.
Former Ottawa Senator, and newly-minted Nashville Predator Mark Borowiecki has long been vocal in support of social justice; including, but not limited to, publicly backing the LGBTQ+ community. Those who have come to know and love BoroCop shouldn’t be surprised that he took it upon himself to reach out to Morissette by putting the call out on his Instagram, and asking his followers to help him get in touch upon being moved by the story.
Borowiecki’s plea was answered by countless Sens fans, who connected with Morissette on social media to help make the conversation happen.
“I sent him a message request saying ‘I hear you’re looking for me’”, laughed Morissette.
Things blossomed quickly from there. The two got to talking, and with Borowiecki being the only pro athlete to personally reach out Morissette, you’d think that the radio producer and podcaster would be the one who was starstruck. Needless to say, it soon became apparent that it was the other way around.
“He just wanted to reiterate again and again; he thought what I did was amazing, which was really nice to hear at a time when I was in a lot of physical pain, never mind mental pain as well,” said Morissette.
Borowiecki reaching out even once was impressive in its own right, but as he so often does, Boro went the extra mile. It wasn’t long before he asked for Morissette’s address, in order to send him a sort of “care package”. It was, as Borowiecki put it, “a small token of appreciation”.
To Morissette, it was much more.
“Within a week or so, he told me that it had been shipped out and was coming my way. I really had no idea what he was sending me, and that was a fun little surprise, as well,” Morissette said, “Shortly after I got out of the hospital. I fell asleep on the couch. And when I woke up, my roommate had had let the package in while I was sleeping, and he put it down in the seat of my wheelchair”.
The package contained a short note, wherein Borowiecki took care to express what a stand-up individual and great human being that he thought Morissette to be, to go with a set of game-used gloves from the 2019-2020 season. While Boro was jokingly apologetic about the smell, and the lack of goals that came from the gloves, they mean no less to Morissette.
“I think he’s overstating things a little bit there”, he smiled, “They’re going to find a home in a nice little display somewhere in my apartment when I can walk again and do my own personal decor”.
While Morissette will be relatively immobile for the foreseeable future as he recovers from his injuries, Borowiecki is beginning a whole new phase in his career and life. Preparing to move his wife, Tara, and young son, Miles, to the Music City on the back of a two-year $4M deal, it’s a new chapter for a hard-working defender who, frankly, has earned it.
But left in the wake of Borowiecki’s departure is a gaping hole in the city of Ottawa, and the Senators organization. Beloved for his positive attitude, and work in the community through avenues such as the Capital City Condors, Boro endeared himself to his hometown through nothing more than a commitment to always doing the right thing. Be it on or off the ice.
Borowiecki didn’t just message Morissette the one time, or stop at sending him a a collector’s item. The 31 year-old’s admiration for the man who valiantly stood up to bigotry is genuine, and is just another example of the newest Predator’s down-to-earth nature.
When Morissette learned this firsthand, it wasn’t a moment too soon. While his hospital stay was no picnic at the best of times, he vividly recalls one day where things felt particularly bleak.
“I just had an awful morning where I felt about the lowest I’ve ever felt in my entire life”, he said, “As far as depression and anxiety and just feeling utterly hopeless, and at the whims of forces out of your control.”
“In the lowest moment, mentally, of my entire life. I got a random check-in message from from Mark. He had no idea that I was spiralling out of control in that moment”.
What followed was a nearly hour-long conversation, wherein Borowiecki talked things through with Morissette. While he had never suffered an injury quite this severe, Borowiecki did his best to relate through his own struggles with concussions, and emphasized the importance of staying positive through a difficult process.
“He was somebody who could sort of talk about the things that I was going through with an amount of personal experience that he could relate to himself, and just sort of help me get my mind right, and my head on straight in a moment I was sort of letting the the negativity win,” Morissette explained.
“It was huge.”
While Borowiecki will almost certainly be remembered for being a warrior on the ice, and for clotheslining a thief in Vancouver, it will be the people he touched that shape his legacy. There are likely far more people than we know of with stories similar to Justin Morissette’s, and they likely have the same appreciation for a defender who will be sorely missed in Ottawa.
This is, of course, because Borowiecki’s reputation is genuine, and well-earned.
“He sent me a wonderful gift that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life, but gave me another gift in his friendship,” said Morissette.
“He’s just a great, wonderful person”.
If you want to help Justin on his road to recovery, you can donate to his GoFundMe campaign here.