Morrissey redefines dishing out with new food venture

Teaming up with restaurateur Bobby Mottola, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey has expanded his skillset to the culinary world.

Morrissey redefines dishing out with new food venture

Feature Photo: IG /  @the44wpg

Josh Morrissey has taken his passion for food to the next level.

A self-described foodie, Morrissey, in his eighth NHL season (all with the Winnipeg Jets) has landed on the ideal recipe to elevate his passion for gastronomy.

A new pop-up restaurant at Hargrave St. Market in Winnipeg called The 44, inspired by Morrissey’s jersey number, is the brainchild of the defenceman and local restaurateur Bobby Mottola. Mottola owns and operates Academy Hospitality, which among its eight concept restaurants includes the highly rated Pizzeria Gusto.

Not long after he was drafted 13th overall by the Jets in 2013, the blueliner discovered Pizzeria Gusto and took an immediate shine to the food and its owner.

Morrissey and Mottola eventually struck up a friendship.

“I have been going there for a long time,” Morrissey told “Bobby is a great person and a very smart businessman.”

Mottola had equal praise for Morrissey.

“Josh has been both a client and a friend for over a decade,” said Mottola. “His dedication to his profession and the community is truly inspirational to me and our team.”

Conversations between the player and restaurateur eventually led to talks of a potential business partnership.

It all came together in May of the 2023-24 season. The 44 opened its doors during the Jets’ First Round Stanley Cup Playoffs series, and will run through the 2024-25 NHL season.

“We spoke about my interest in both the business side and the food side,” said Morrissey. “Bobby has done well in several ventures, and I was intrigued about the idea of working with him in some way.”

“He had this idea of creating a menu and restaurant, where I could be part of it through my connection with the Jets and the community. When I was on the road, we would text menu ideas back and forth.”

Morrissey, who has been a major presence in the Winnipeg community since the start of his NHL career, wanted to lend more than just his name to the initiative.

“We started with a playoff-type menu, foods you would eat during the NHL playoffs,” recalled Morrissey.

“Now, we have some full-day items, breakfast options, smoothies and other favourites.”

Current offerings at The 44, which features hockey-themed decor, include the likes of prime rib sliders, chili and popcorn shrimp as part of the curated menu crafted by Morrissey and Mottola.

“It’s a fun opportunity to be creative,” said the veteran of 582 regular-season NHL games.

And not only with the food offerings.

A video heralding The 44’s opening made the rounds on social media.

Morrissey had a starring role in the production.

“We had a day off and we needed to launch the restaurant. So, we wanted to come up with some video content. Bobby and his team are great at creating all that. It was fun.

“I was asked to do some acting and I tried to do my best. I enjoyed it and I think it came together well.”

While he doesn’t have any further acting aspirations, the amicable defenceman does continue to have a great interest in the restaurant world.

“As an athlete, food is something you look upon as fuel for your body, to help with your training and performance during the season. It’s fun, once and a while, to expand beyond those basics.

“A lot of it [love of food] has been through my travels in hockey. I am not the most adventurous eater, but I do enjoy a lot of different cuisines.”

Morrissey, whose food weakness comes in the form of desserts, has a particular affinity for one country’s vast food offerings.

“My favourite is Italian. Across the board, rustic Italian is where I would go.

“I had the pleasure of going to Italy once before and had some of the best meals of my life. Some of the best meals that I had in Tuscany were the small, family-owned places. It was amazing.”

Similarly, reviews for The 44 have been overwhelmingly positive and is now available to the community through online ordering.

“It’s a very welcoming spot Bobby and I are very happy with how things have gone so far,” said Morrissey.

Happy, but also motivated to do more.

“We are making some menu adjustments,” said Morrissey. “We have new items, but we want to constantly look at what we are doing and what we can do.”

Mottola is impressed by what Morrissey brings to the table.

“Josh is a true foodie. He seeks out great restaurants while traveling and has a deep appreciation for good food,” offered Mottola.

“I've come to admire how much research Josh puts into his interests, whether it's culinary endeavors, saunas and cold plunges, proper nutrition, or the importance of stretching.

“Although I might not be the best student in some of these areas, I appreciate his thorough approach. When it comes to culinary pursuits, we are definitely like-minded.”

Speaking of perfect fits, fashion will also join the food options at The 44.

“We are working on some merchandise, doing some different drops on shirts and hoodies we are getting requests for that,” noted Morrissey.

“People have been very supportive of us.”

It’s exactly what a hockey player, foodie and budding restaurateur likes to hear.

“This is a cool way for me to interact with fans and people of Winnipeg in a different way outside of the arena.”

Not surprisingly, Mottola serves up a five-star review for his friend and business partner.

“My favourite part of working with Josh is his creativity and genuineness. These qualities have made our journey together incredibly exciting and fulfilling.”