Bryan Murray, Who Turned Around Losing Hockey Teams, Dies at 74

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He oversaw the Panthers’ stunning run to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals in their third season in the N.H.L., gaining honors as the league’s executive of the year.

The Panthers’ fans were thrilled by their upstart team all through that season. When a Panther player scored a goal, they tossed toy rats onto the ice, inspired by Panther forward Scott Mellanby having killed a rat with his stick in the team’s locker room before the home opener, then wielding it to score a pair of goals that night.

Buoyed by the goaltending of John Vanbiesbrouck and their high-scoring line of Mellanby, Rob Niedermayer and Johan Garpenlov, the Panthers were stopped only by the Colorado Avalanche, who swept them in four games in the Stanley Cup finals.

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Murray was inducted as the first member of the Ottawa Senators “ring of honor” earlier this year. He announced that he had stage 4 colon cancer in 2014.

Credit
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

But the Panthers won only one playoff game the following season. Murray also became their coach in 1997, then hired his brother Terry to replace him the following season while remaining as general manager. With the team in decline, both Murrays were fired in December 2000.

Bryan Clarence Murray was born on Dec. 5, 1942, in Shawville, an English-speaking town in Quebec across the Ottawa River from the city of Ottawa. He grew up with nine brothers and sisters, played on local hockey teams, served as athletic director at McGill University’s Macdonald College in Montreal, which he had attended, then coached in the minors before reaching the N.H.L.

After his stints with the Capitals, Red Wings and Panthers, Murray coached the Mighty Ducks, then oversaw their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2003 as general manager. They were beaten by the Devils in seven games.

Returning to his roots in the Ottawa Valley, Murray was hired as the Senators’ coach in June 2004.

“There’s never any doubt where you stand with him,” Daniel Alfredsson, the Ottawa Senators’ captain, told The Washington Times just before the Senators faced Anaheim in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals.

Murray “builds your confidence, doesn’t tear you down,” Alfredsson said.

But the Senators lost to the Ducks in five games. Murray gave up his coaching post to become their general manager afterward, but returned to coach as well on an interim basis during the 2007-8 season.

Murray’s survivors include his wife, Geri; their daughters, Heide and Brittany; and several grandchildren, the Senators said

Murray was an intense figure behind the bench.

“He wasn’t afraid of verbal confrontation with the other coach — coaches or players, anything to put them off their game,” defenseman Darren Veitch, who played for him with the Capitals, told The Ottawa Sun in 2005.

Reflecting on his time playing hockey as a teenager but never making the pros, Murray recalled how “I played tough, I fought lots. I wasn’t a great skater and that held me back.”

As for why to felt he could succeed as a coach, he remarked how “when I played sports I was always the guy who had the biggest mouth.”



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