Yesterday the Senators announced that former general manager Bryan Murray passed away at the age of 74 while surrounded by friends and family.
The sad news not only leaves a giant hole in the Senators’ organization, but in the greater Ottawa community.
After years of falling short to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the postseason, Murray became the fifth coach in franchise history when he was hired on June 8, 2004. He was and still is the only coach in Senators history to guide his team to the Stanley Cup final.
Murray would go on to supplant John Muckler as the Senators’ general manager after that Stanley Cup final. Years of ignorance, neglect and shortsighted transactions under Muckler eventually caught up with the organization. Although it took a few years to see the results from Murray’s efforts to revamp the scouting and hockey operations departments over the next two years, the addition of hires like Tim Murray, Pierre Dorion and Anders Forsberg put the Senators on the path to restocking the farm system with young players who would go on to become the foundation of the team that we watch now.
Imagine an Erik Karlsson-less Senators team?
I still feel pretty strongly that Murray replacing Muckler as general manager is still one of the best things to happen to this franchise in the past 25 years.
Murray was given the grim diagnosis of Stage-4 colon cancer in June of 2014. Given the circumstances, no one could have blamed Murray for walking away from the game and living out the rest of his life in private.
That wasn’t Bryan Murray however.
Not only did Murray remain involved in the game for the rest of his life, he made his fight against cancer public and used his platform and story to ensure that others could benefit from his illness. Through his work as a cancer-screening advocate and his involvement in fundraising campaigns for complementary cancer therapy initiatives, Murray has not only raised the profile of how to guard against this cruel disease, he saved lives.
After spending 14 years in an organization and probably becoming the longest serving member that the Senators’ hockey operations department has ever had, inevitably Murray was not only going to have a huge influence over the people within the Senators’ organization, but also outside of it.
The fondness for one of the game’s endearing characters has been transparent and genuine. The hockey world’s outpouring of support, stories and memories of Murray over the past 18 hours has been outstanding.
I don’t have a great Murray story of my own.
I was never formally introduced to the man, but in spending time around the rink, the closest I ever came was a curt nod and smile as a greeting when I passed him in a hall.
My most personal interaction with Murray occurred at the old O’Connor’s Irish Pub in the Kanata Centrum on April 18, 2006.
The Senators had just eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning at home that night to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the entire coaching staff was celebrating over beers. At one point in the night, Murray and Greg Carvel walked by me and a few friends when I congratulated them. We raised our beers and toasted the win.
And tonight I’ll raise another one in Bryan’s honour.
Condolences to the Murray family.