If anyone knows what it feels like to be booed as a Toronto Maple Leaf, it’s Larry Murphy.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer grew up a fan of the Maple Leafs and says he was excited after the 1995 off-season trade that sent him from the Pittsburgh Penguins to his hometown in exchange for Dmitri Mironov and a second-round draft pick.
Although the defenceman put up 100 points in 151 games as a Leaf, he was roundly criticized by Leafs Nation. He played in Toronto for less than two seasons but joked Tuesday that it felt like 20 years.
“I always believed that better days were ahead. That’s what kept me going,” Murphy told Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 the Fan Tuesday morning. “There was never a point where I went to [then GM] Cliff Fletcher and said, ‘You gotta trade me. I gotta get outta here.’ I always believed there were sunnier days around the corner.'”
The 1995-96 Leafs were ousted in first round of the playoffs by St. Louis in six games, in the final post-season series played at Maple Leaf Gardens. At the following season’s trade deadline, Murphy was traded to Detroit, a legitimate Cup contender, for future considerations.
“I wasn’t looking to jump ship. Just the opportunity came where if I waived my no-trade [clause], I could go to Detroit, and they had an opportunity to win the Cup,” he said. “You can’t pass that up. I jumped on it.”
With Murphy contributing a combined 26 points over the 1997 and ’98 post-seasons, the Red Wings captured back-to-back championships — the last NHL team to do so. The success gave him a feeling of affirmation after the derision he endured in Toronto.
“You’re constantly being called out. Then to have things work out in Detroit as they did, it was a ‘Hey, I showed you’ type of attitude, without a doubt. As a player, you use every sort of motivation you can get your hands on. Dealing with the naysayers was one of them,” explained Murphy.
Murphy now lives in Michigan but will return to Toronto this spring to participate in the Scotiabank Baycrest Pro-Am charity hockey tournament. His attitude about the struggling team could well be applied to today’s version.
And despite the waves of jeers and talk-radio insults, Murphy’s points-per-game rate in his one full season as a Leaf (0.74) was better than that of any of his four full campaigns in Detroit, where his best was a 0.65.
“I was excited every time I stepped out on Maple Leaf Gardens with the leaf on. I always believed this was a day of a new beginning for this team,” he said. “I never thought things were hopeless. That’s what keeps you going, the promise of tomorrow.”