Judging by what everyone in the NHL is saying, Bryan Murray was one of the league’s most popular people.
Players, co-workers, commissioner Gary Bettman and even the media have told wonderful stories about Murray, who died from cancer a few days ago at age 74. They spoke about his needling, his sense of humour, his teaching ability and his passion for the game. He cared about people.
We knew all those things before the NHL did. Murray left his Quebec hometown, put off his potential teaching career, to try coaching “just for a year.” That’s what he told his wife when he joined the junior Regina Pats for their 1979-80 season. It was an astute hiring by general manager Bob Strumm, whose team boasted three soon-to-be, first-round draft choices in Doug Wickenheiser, Darren Veitch and Mike Blaisdell. With Ron Flockhart and Brian Varga, they comprised one of the all-time great power plays and propelled the Pats to a league championship.
The Pats sadly faltered in the Memorial Cup, but Murray’s 38-year hockey career was just starting. And whenever someone asked, Murray was always happy to fondly reminisce about trying coaching, “just for a year” in Regina.