The Ottawa Senators have inducted their first person into the Ring of Honour — Bryan Murray. The former coach and general manager started with the Senators in 2004. He has since taken on the senior advisor role after stepping down as GM at the end of last season.
The Jan. 24 game between the Senators and the Washington Capitals seemed like a fitting choice to unveil the lasting tribute. Murray is the first to be picked for the Ring of Honour; he won’t be the last. Inductees are selected as great contributors to the organization. The pillar is found above the 300-level seats at the Canadian Tire Centre and future inductees are to be featured.
The late Washington Capitals owner Abe Pollin decided to take a chance on a young coach from Shawville and Murray was hired. Murray’s first job in the NHL was the head coach of the Capitals for the 1981-82 season.
During the pre-game ceremony, Captain Alexander Ovechkin presented a team-signed Capitals jersey with the number 343 on it. The number represents the wins Murray had as the head coach and to his day, remains a Capitals record. Murray was behind the bench for eight and half seasons with the team. In 1984, he won the Jack Adams Trophy.
David Poile of the Nashville Predators started as a general manager of the Capitals in 1982. Poile could have replaced Murray right away if he wanted to, but he didn’t and he said he was glad about that. The decision made Murray happy as well since he learned a lot from Poile.
Bryan is one of 10 children of Rhoda and Clarence Murray and calls Shawville, Quebec, his hometown. Obviously, Terry, who is now an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres, is one of those Murray children.
Clarence built the house in Shawville in the late 1940s. It would be a family home until Rhoda’s passing in 2013.
For over a year, the Murray family didn’t even live in the home. Clarence rented the place out for the extra income and the gang lived on a farm that was just outside of Shawville in Yarm.
The time on the farm offered up great memories for Bryan. The kids would head out for a skate early in the morning and then get on the bus go to school. When they returned from school, they hit the ice to skate again and nobody would get off, quite often, until Rhoda called for them to come in and get supper.
If any of the Murray boys wanted to play hockey in town at the arena, they had to walk.
“Nobody ever drove anybody,” Bryan said. “Certainly not in our family at that time, so you put the skates and equipment bag over your shoulder, you walked in and after the game you played, you walked out. It was seldom we got a drive. I remember lots of nights walking with [brothers] Laird or Barrie with the wind blowing and snowing. It’s what we did and that’s how we lived. We didn’t expect otherwise.”
Like Terry, Bryan remembered Selly Langford, who lived just a few doors down from them in Shawville. Langford had set up his own outdoor rink.
“The policy was the boys cleaned the ice,” said Bryan. “The girls had the first-hour skating if there were any girls around. After that we could play hockey and [it’s a memory] I remember very fondly. Selly put up lights for us and many nights we played until 9 or 9:30 at night before we went home.”
The pull of the game was strong throughout the town. Kids also played in a swampy area called Hodgins Pond. The old Shawville arena – which no longer exists – would often see a gang sneak in through the windows for the chance to play indoor hockey.
He coached the Pembroke Lumberkings and eventually was offered a job with the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League. He decided to go and took the team to the 1980 Memorial Cup. Murray joined the Hersey Bears as an assistant and then head coach before making the move to the NHL.
“First of all, I want to thank Eugene [Melynk] and the nominating committee for this recognition,” said Murray during the ceremony before the game. “To be close…closer to Alfie at any rate and another Shawville man, the late Frank Finnigan, is a real honour.”
Murray was presented with an all-expense paid ticket to Dublin, Ireland. He was also given a sculpture by Michael Gray of Gray Art Glass in Merrickville, ON.
“This also is the case to say thank you to the people who have been important, life and career. Geri (wife), (daughters) Heide, Brittany…your love and support for your understanding of the time and commitment that is required for this business. I know the time away, thousands of hockey games, and moving around and leaving friends behind has not been easy and I love you for that.
“To my brothers and sisters and their families, thank you for your support and encouragement. To the team and the Senators organization…thanks for the opportunity to finish my career in Ottawa. To the staff of the hockey department, your dedication, work ethic, friendship has been so important and it has been great working with you. To the players, watching your effort and performance through the years, certainly, this year, is one of the reasons why this profession is so great. To the fans, there’s been up and downs but your continuous support has been outstanding.”
Daniel Alfredsson – the long-serving captain of the Senators – has made the shift to the front office. Alfredsson is also one of the few players still with the organization who dealt with Murray when he was the head coach and general manager. Alfredsson has come to learn a lot.
Back in June, Alfredsson told this writer “You deal with Bryan a lot more when he was a coach. For me as a player, and as a captain, I dealt with him a lot,” he said. “I thought Bryan was an outstanding coach, probably the best one I ever had and I missed him as a coach when he became the GM. Obviously, I have more of a relationship now … when I retired and began working on the office side. His approach and his knowledge of the game, I find I can relate to and value it a lot.”
During a TSN interview before the game, Alfredsson said, “[Bryan] is the best coach I ever had.”
“I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with many great people and players over the years. They are the reason that this career has been fun and rewarding. I have many great memories and highlights [including] the 2007 team and Alfie scoring the overtime goal in Game 5 to put us into the Stanley Cup Final.
“The other real highlight is the response of the fans, the enthusiasm in the city that year it really proved that it was fun to win. To finish my career in Ottawa and receive this recognition is certainly another highlight and I thank you for that.”
Scott is an at-large contributor for The Hockey Writers, which means he hopes to do a variety of story topics. He is an Ottawa Senators fan, if he had to pick a team.