Andy Murray has had great success at the helm of the national men’s hockey team, leading Canada to gold medals at three world championships. He has also spent 10 years as a National Hockey League head coach with the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues. Murray will be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame as a builder on May 20 in Finland.
Three decades ago, Andy Murray began his first overseas coaching stint, the start of an international coaching career that has taken him from world championships and the Olympics to the National Hockey League.
Later this month, he will be honoured for his remarkable career when he is inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. The 61-year-old Murray, who was born in Gladstone and raised in Souris, will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in the builders category on May 20 in Helsinki, Finland, joining a class that also includes Pavel Bure and Phil Housley.
"It’s very humbling," Murray said via telephone from Switzerland where he is helping the Swiss team prepare for the upcoming world hockey championship. "I’ve always felt that when I coached, I tried to put pressure on myself and I always felt I was representing everybody from back home there and all the coaches in Manitoba and all that.
"I am just a guy from Souris that’s had some fortunate opportunities along the way and some good players and some good assistant coaches who have helped me a great deal."
Murray has certainly made the most of his opportunities. Beginning in 1981, after guiding the Brandon University Bobcats to the No.1 ranking in the country, Murray coached professionally in Europe for eight years and spent 16 seasons in the NHL, including 10 years as a head coach with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, posting a career NHL record of 333-278-57-71.
While he says every coaching stint has been special, it’s clear that his time with Canada’s national team has a special place in his heart. Murray helped guide Canada’s 1998 Olympic team and is the only coach to lead Canada to six Spengler Cup titles. He is also the only non-Russian coach to lead his country to three world hockey championships, in 1997, 2003 and 2008.
"When you hear your country’s national anthem being played and you see your flag being raised, it’s special," Murray said. "You are kind of standing in the background and watch your players celebrate, you get pretty emotional. I know in all three of the gold medals, I had a phone on the ice and I called my mother back in Brandon there and shared that with her, too. So there certainly can’t be anything better than that, for sure."
Murray is coming off his first season with Western Michigan University, and what a season it was. After signing a lucrative five-year contract last July, Murray guided the WMU Broncos to their best record since 1995-96, and beat rival Michigan to win their first CCHA playoff title in 26 years before falling in the NCAA regionals to North Dakota.
"I really enjoyed it," Murray said. "I’m a big college sports fan and we have a 45,000-seat football stadium on campus, so I partake in everything. I am on the sidelines for the football games and I just really enjoy the lifestyle, so it was fun and we had a good year. We won the first championship since 1986 in our league, so they were pretty happy and I am excited about going back."
"We need more Manitoba players on our team, but I promised (Brandon Wheat Kings general manager) Kelly McCrimmon I wouldn’t touch anybody, only guys that are on other teams’ lists," he said with a chuckle.
After his stint overseas, Murray will return home to Souris for a celebration dinner and fundraising golf tournament in June.
"I am really excited about that," he said. "I told them when they called me that they didn’t have to do anything to honour me because I felt honoured to be from there and they make me feel special all the time. I said the only way I would want to do it is if it was a fundraiser, so we want to build a new outdoor arena up at the school in Souris … And as you know, the flood did a lot of damage at the local golf course, so we’re hoping to raise some funds for that, so it’s a chance for everybody to come out and support those two causes."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 1, 2012