BOCA RATON, Fla. — Bryan Murray can look around the room at the NHL’s general managers meeting and see more than a half-dozen colleagues he hired, worked with or coached. Nephew Tim Murray, David Poile, Chuck Fletcher, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Peter Chiarelli and Steve Yzerman all have connections to Murray’s extensive career.
"There’s quite a number of guys I’ve had contact with," the Ottawa Senators’ GM said. "I can go down the list."
Monday night the group will honour Murray for his courage in his public battle with Stage 4 colon cancer and for his lifetime in hockey. For the first time, general managers will honour someone currently in the position.
"We honour people too often past their prime," said Tim Murray, GM of the Buffalo Sabres. "I don’t see anything wrong with guys that have been in this league as long as him, Glen Sather, David Poile, they should be honoured in their prime."
Poile and Murray worked together in Washington and remain close friends. Murray said Poile was the one who called him to make sure it was OK to recognize him at a dinner that’s usually reserved for retired executives.
"I think that any time you’re recognized by your peer group, it is an honour and it’s a nice thing to have happen," Murray said.
The 72-year-old has continued to work through chemotherapy treatments this season. He’ll wait until the end of the season to decide whether to return next year.
Talk to people around hockey and no one says a bad word about Murray, who has done it all in coaching and management. His staying on the job and promoting men getting colonoscopies is a source of inspiration in the hockey community.
"He’s serving a higher purpose by everything that he’s he doing in this case," Nashville Predators GM Poile said last week in a phone interview. "He’s doing his job, which is his purpose, but he’s also serving the greater purpose for the big picture on the cancer in terms of telling his story. You know it’s going to have some positive effects down the line for a lot of people."
Murray has already had an effect on hockey, from his Memorial Cup with the Regina Pats through the Senators’ trip to the 2007 Stanley Cup final. He worked in coaching and executive capacities for the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Senators.
He is 10th on the all-time wins list among coaches with 620 managed the expansion Panthers to the Cup final in 1996. Along the way, he helped jump-start a handful of careers, including Fletcher of the Minnesota Wild and Tim Murray.
Nill, GM of the Dallas Stars, estimated that three-quarters of GMs have a close relationship with Murray, who is in his 32nd consecutive season in the NHL.
"It tells you you’ve been around and that you’ve had some impact, good or bad, on a variety of people," Murray said of his many connections to other GMs. "A lot of the people that you’re most proud of are the guys that stay in the game and are involved and happy to be doing so because it’s a great business to be in."
Last year former GM Larry Pleau was honoured and before that Pat Quinn. Tim Murray expected an emotional dinner but did not plan on speaking.
"No, I would not be able to do it," he said. "Frankly, one Murray crying in there will be enough."