TORONTO — Bryan Murray went to work Tuesday because that’s what he’s always done.
The only difference between him and the other 29 general managers that convened at the NHL’s Toronto office is Murray postponed a chemotherapy treatment to attend.
The Ottawa Senators GM is battling Stage 4 colon cancer, but continues to perform as many of his professional duties as possible. He isn’t able to go into the office on days where he receives chemo.
Otherwise, he’s on the clock.
“We live our lives,” said Murray. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be involved (in hockey) as long as I have been. I go to the hospital, I see young people — young mothers and young children — and if I can’t be strong and brave, how can they be? It is the way it is right now and there’s no sense in hiding it. I’ll just continue to be that. I’m not pretending anything.
“I feel fine, I’m OK strength-wise.”
The 71-year-old is determined to find as much good in his situation as possible. Doctors believe he had cancer for seven to 10 years without being diagnosed — it had spread to his lungs and liver by the time they found it — and has decided to speak openly about his condition in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of getting a colonoscopy.
Paul MacLean, the Senators coach, went for one this week. Sabres GM Tim Murray, Bryan’s nephew, scheduled an appointment as well.
Bryan Murray has received an outpouring of support since a TSN feature on his condition aired last week. Everyone from current colleagues to former players reached out with support.
“Sometimes I feel guilty I can’t respond to them all as quickly as I’d like to,” he said. “I try to do that and I will try to continue to do that.”
On Tuesday he had a chance to thank a few people personally. Murray occupied his normal spot at the GM meeting between Glen Sather and Ron Hextall — Ottawa falls between New York and Philadelphia on the list of NHL teams — and was said to be heavily engaged in the discussion.
The managers voted to eliminate a dry scrape of the ice at the end of regulation and debated the merits of expanding video review to include plays involving goaltender interference on goals. A range of other topics were covered as well and Murray’s opinion was made known on them all.
“Bryan was terrific today,” said New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.
“His participation today was no different than it’s ever been. Not unlike Pat Burns, what Bryan is doing is exemplifying the character he has.”
“I think we’ve all been touched by it,” said Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, himself a cancer survivor. “Whether it’s personally or friends or family, I think it’s one of the universal things in life. You’ve got to battle through it and he’s certainly battling.”
There have been a range of emotions for Murray since receiving his cancer diagnosis on the eve of the NHL draft in June. He has dropped 40 pounds and endured the energy-sapping chemo treatments, and said his family was upset after viewing the TSN feature.
That made his illness seem more real.
However, through all of the ups and downs, he has made a point of trying to set an example for others.
“I think people are what they are, really,” said Murray. “You can’t hide from things. Nobody wants it — I don’t want this. I’ve never been sick in my life until I got this. I don’t want to be that way, I don’t want to put on a face that I don’t have it.
“It is who I am and I’m going to try to fight it as long as I can. That’s going to be a long time.”
An entire industry is pulling for him.
While Murray can’t say for sure how long he’ll remain in his position with the Senators, he noted that there are a number of exciting young prospects in the organization he wants to see reach the NHL.
In other words: He doesn’t plan on going anywhere soon.
“I’m old enough to retire, my wife has told me that for the last four or five years, and she’s right,” said Murray. “In turn, though, to be involved and active, I think is important, and for me to go home and sit on the couch doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, so I’m not going to do that.
“(Senators owner) Eugene (Melnyk) has been very strong and involved with me and anything and everything is normal. I think that that’s the way I want to operate right now.”
And so the work continues.