Murray hasn’t forgotten Auld’s kind gesture
Almost a decade after his generous gesture, Alex Auld admits he had “forgotten” about it.
Matt Murray, on the other hand, never has. And never will.
In becoming the early Cinderella story of these playoffs, Murray, 21, has had fame thrust upon him in just a handful of days, the result of backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back victories at Madison Garden.
Not only did Murray allow just one goal in the first 120 minutes of his playoff career in helping the Pens take a 3-1 lead, he did it in front of a star-studded crowd that included the likes of actor Liam Neeson, tennis legend John McEnroe, a number of New York Jets, including the heckling Nick Mangold and actress Susan Sarandon.
“I did notice (Sarandon) when they showed her on the big video screen,” the unflappable Murray admitted on Friday, breaking into a wide grin. “I’m a fan.”
Murray isn’t the type of personality to exhibit giddiness over a celebrity. He does admit that as a kid growing up in Thunder Bay, he used to wear a Doug Gilmour jersey. But when it comes to picking out a favourite player and mentor at this point of his career, the decision is easy. Former NHL goalie Alex Auld. And it all stems back to a decision by Auld to financially help out minor hockey players in Thunder Bay eight years ago.
“I was 13 and in first-year bantam, I believe,” Murray recalled. “The minor hockey (rep) team in Thunder Bay is the Thunder Bay Kings and there is peewee, bantam, minor midget and major midget. And there are two goalies per team.
“That particular year the organization offered all eight goalies in the system either a new set of glove and blocker, or new chest protector. Obviously we were a 100 per cent travel team so it costs a lot of money to play for that team. Goalie equipment for our parents was super expensive.
“Anyway I learned it was Alex Auld who had offered to buy each goalie a new set of equipment. He wanted to stay kind of anonymous while doing it. It was a pretty cool moment.”
Interestingly, Murray has never had the opportunity to meet Auld to thank him.
“I would love to see him,” Murray said.
Maybe Murray hasn’t seen Auld. But, like many hockey fans watching these playoffs on TV, Auld has seen Murray.
In fact, during the Penguins 5-0 thumping of the Rangers in Game 4 Thursday, Auld saw a tweet from broadcaster Chris Cuthbert that he was Murray’s favourite hockey player because of the equipment donation.
“You know something? I’d forgotten all about that,” Auld said Friday during a phone interview. “It definitely is cool to see somebody that you did something nice for while growing up be appreciative of it and take it and turn it into a pro career.
“For me, it’s about growing up in a community like Thunder Bay, where there are some difficulties in playing hockey. It’s so isolated. Obviously if you play on one of the rep teams, it’s all travel and that’s a huge expense. Then, with goalten- ding equipment on top of that, it’s hard for parents to afford for their kids to play. Thanks to my association with Reebok, I just thought it would be a great way to give back at the time.”
Now retired, Auld played 237 games in the NHL on eight different teams, with a career 2.80 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s on the right path,” Auld said of Murray, who will try to help the Penguins eliminate the Rangers Saturday afternoon.
At the end of his interview, Auld asked if we could pass on his phone number to Murray so the two could touch base. Whatever the contents of that conversation, Auld has left a lasting impression on Murray, so much so that the young Penguins goalie would like to help young hockey players in Thunder Bay like Auld did.
“For sure,” Murray said. “The way that it made me feel, just out of the kindness of his heart, to buy eight kids a set of equipment, that’s a lot of money.
“The way it made me feel, yeah, I’d love to do that for kids one day.”