Former top pick made most of brief stay in NHL
Morris Titanic has no regrets.
A first round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 1973 entry draft, Titanic appeared in only 19 NHL regular season games. Known for his offensive ability in junior hockey, Titanic did not score a single point at the major league level.
Despite the fact that he was never able to find NHL stardom, Titanic does not look back in anger.
“There are so many good players, there’s a fine line between those who have long careers in the NHL and those that don’t,” Titanic said. “Timing and circumstances mean so much. I’ve seen it 100 times. Many guys have taken the best advantage of the situation. Goals go in off their ass and things like that. Then, they gain confidence and build on that. For me, that didn’t happen. For some guys, that happens.”
Today, the NHL entry draft is held in packed venues around North America. Top-level prospects, their agents and rabid fans are all in attendance. A good portion of the proceedings are televised. In 1973, the draft was not the spectacle we have come to know and expect.
“Today, they make a big deal, back then I was pumping gas during the draft,” Titanic said. “Somebody working on a car heard on the radio that I’d been drafted. I kind of expected to be taken because a couple of teams had called. To be honest, I didn’t really think too much about it.”
Titanic’s NHL experience was limited, but it was far from uneventful. In 1975, he was on the Buffalo roster as the team marched to the Stanley Cup finals.
“Being here for the Stanley Cup finals was great,” Titanic said. “It was amazing being around all that. Having the experience of being around all that hoopla was fantastic. It was like a dream. As a kid, you don’t think it can happen to you.”
A few seasons after the Sabres reached the finals, Titanic again found himself playing for a championship.
“In the AHL, while I was with the Hershey Bears, we played in the Calder Cup finals,” Titanic said. “Unfortunately, we also ended up losing down there.”
Skilled in the academic arena, Titanic was never a dumb jock.
“I was a pretty good student,” he said. “I had offers from many Ivy League schools, but I decided to play major junior hockey. I played with the Aurora Tigers. After that, the Niagara Falls Flyers drafted me. I played there for two years. Then, the team moved up to Sudbury.”
At the conclusion of the 1979-80 season, Titanic called it a career.
“I spent my whole career in the Sabre organization,” he said. “When I was finished, I was searching to find something. I thought about going to college, but I really didn’t have the time to devote four or five years to school.”
Many former players, once their playing days have come to an end, decide to get into coaching. Titanic, after retiring as a player, spent some time calling shots from behind the bench.
“When I was done playing, I coached the Buffalo Junior Sabres for five or six years,” he said. “I had a couple of offers to move on, but they were out of town and you had to start at the bottom of the ladder. Circumstances weren’t right. So, I didn’t do it. I needed to find a career outside of hockey.”
Now residing in North Buffalo with his wife and two of his four children, Titanic has done quite well for himself since walking away from the rink.
“I’m in the printing business, I work for Thorner Press here in Buffalo,” Titanic said. “We do brochures and things of that nature. In fact, we used to do the magazine for the Sabres.”
Hockey no longer helps pay his bills, but Titanic remains interested in the NHL.
“I’m not diligent about it, but I do follow the sport,” he said. “I’ll watch a good game on television. Also, we have an alumni room down at the arena and I’ll take in a few games from there.”
Each winter, while the NHL Sabres are battling to bring home the Stanley Cup, several former members of the team lace up their skates and take to the ice.
“I play hockey with the guys that are around town,” Titanic said. “We get ice time every Thursday in the winter. Freddy Stanfield schedules all the games. We play from seven to 10 games.”
From a hockey standpoint, Titanic never made it big in Buffalo. Nevertheless, the Toronto native has found happiness in Western New York.
“Being from Toronto, this felt natural,” Titanic said. “It’s close to home and I had been hanging around here over the years. Really, it’s the best of both worlds. I stayed in the states, but I’m close to Canada. And there are a lot of former players here.”
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