Long­time NHL coach, GM Bryan Mur­ray dies at 74 of can­cer

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Bryan Mur­ray, a long­time NHL coach and gen­eral man­ager who helped turn around the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals and took the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors to the Stanley Cup Fi­nal, has died at 74. He was di­ag­nosed in 2014 with colon can­cer that he was told was in­cur­able and be­came an ad­vo­cate for aware­ness and early de­tec­tion. Mur­ray worked that season and an­other as gen­eral man­ager of the Sen­a­tors, who con­firmed his death Satur­day.

“Bryan was one of the great­est men that the game of hockey has ever known and also a great fa­ther, men­tor and teacher,” Sen­a­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk said. Mur­ray served as gen­eral man­ager in Ana­heim, Florida, Detroit and Ot­tawa and coached in Wash­ing­ton, Detroit, Florida, Ana­heim and Ot­tawa. He won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year with the Cap­i­tals in 1983-84 and reached the Cup Fi­nal with the Sen­a­tors in 2007.

“Bryan Mur­ray’s strength and char­ac­ter were re­flected in the teams he coached and the teams he built over decades of front-of­fice ex­cel­lence,” NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman said. The Cap­i­tals had not been to the play­offs in their first eight years of ex­is­tence be­fore mak­ing seven con­sec­u­tive post­sea­son trips un­der Mur­ray. Former player Craig Laugh­lin de­scribed Mur­ray as a play­ers’ coach with an old-school ap­proach and a knack for manag­ing per­son­al­i­ties.

“He was an ab­so­lute play­ers’ coach that in my ca­reer you would go through the wall for be­cause of your re­spect for him as a per­son and as a hockey coach,” Laugh­lin said. “He was just an un­be­liev­able guy where as a player you could sit down and have a beer with your coach and talk hockey, talk fam­ily, talk sports, talk any­thing and he was a guy that was there for you.”

David Poile, now Nashville’s GM, in­her­ited Mur­ray as coach when he was GM of the Cap­i­tals and said he learned more from him than he taught. Mur­ray be­gan his adult life as a gym teacher, and that trans­lated well to coach­ing.

“He re­ally saw bas­ket­ball in terms of a lot of the plays that they used that could be in­te­grated into hockey,” Poile said. “He re­ally loved just the daily in­ter­ac­tion with the play­ers, be­ing on the ice, be­ing be­hind the bench, set­ting the strat­egy for the game and how the team would play. I re­ally think that if there’s such a thing as what you’re born for, I think Bryan was born for coach­ing.”

Mur­ray coached 1,239 reg­u­lar-season and 112 play­off games over parts of 18 sea­sons. Mur­ray made the play­offs in 12 of his 13 full sea­sons as head coach. He last coached in 2007-08 and was Ot­tawa’s GM un­til step­ping down to an ad­vi­sory ca­pac­ity last season be­cause of his health. Mur­ray worked in the NHL in some ca­pac­ity for 35 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, mak­ing far more friends than en­e­mies along the way. Trad­ing barbs with ref­er­ees was a par­tic­u­lar habit of Mur­ray’s, though it had a pur­pose.

“He sort of tried to take the pres­sure off the team by do­ing stuff and yelling and scream­ing at the ref­er­ees and hav­ing fun with them to al­le­vi­ate some of the pres­sure that we had,” Laugh­lin said.

Min­nesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and as­sis­tant GM Brent Flahr, who worked with Mur­ray in Florida, called him “a great friend and a men­tor to many of us in this busi­ness.” Hall of Famer Larry Robin­son said Mur­ray’s death made for a “sad day for hockey.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the en­tire Mur­ray fam­ily,” Sen­a­tors cap­tain Erik Karls­son tweeted. “Thank you for ev­ery­thing Bryan. You gave me the chance to be who I am to­day.” Mur­ray said he wanted his legacy to be can­cer aware­ness. When his fel­low GMs hon­ored him at their an­nual March meet­ing in 2015, nephew Tim Mur­ray and oth­ers said they went to get a colonoscopy after learn­ing about Bryan’s di­ag­no­sis.

“He made that his pas­sion for ev­ery­body to get on board and just to re­al­ize that this is so im­por­tant and this is a sit­u­a­tion if you did some­thing like this on a reg­u­lar ba­sis that this could be a pre­ventable can­cer,” Poile said. “From that stand­point, he was tremen­dous. I think he’s prob­a­bly saved lots of lives be­cause of what he’s done in the past cou­ple of years.”

Laugh­lin said Mur­ray was one of the first player-friendly coaches at a time when oth­ers were “flex­ing their mus­cles” as strict tac­ti­cians. Even op­po­nents and ri­vals re­spected Mur­ray, who said in 2014 he felt bad that he couldn’t re­spond to col­leagues’ mes­sages about his can­cer di­ag­no­sis fast enough.—AP

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