Pembroke mourns loss of Bryan Murray
Submitted photo Marianne Minns and her sons met Bryan Murray and his wife, Geri, during an Ottawa Senators game. In the photo are (left to right) Marianne Minns, Chris Minns, Bryan Murray, Geri Murray, and Mike Minns. Murray worked with Minns on several charity events here in Pembroke.
The hockey world and the Upper Ottawa Valley were rocked at the passing of former Ottawa Senators coach and general manager Bryan Murray.
Battling Stage 4 cancer for the past three years, the Shawville native died on Saturday at the age of 74. The news of his loss hit particularly hard around Pembroke, the place where he got his first coaching job behind the bench of the Lumber Kings. On behalf of the organization Wednesday, Kings owner and head coach Dale McTavish offered his condolences to Murray's family adding the club hopes to honour him during the opening season game.
“It was sad news for the whole hockey world,” said McTavish. “He was a big part of the history of this team. He was a great man and a huge loss for everybody.”
A graduate of McGill University with a degree in physical education, Murray returned to Shawville to work as a phys-ed teacher and minor hockey coach. He career in the Central Junior 'A' Hockey League began in 1973 when he was hired as head coach by one of the Kings' owners Jack Minns, who served as team president. The Lumber Kings finished in third place in his first season. Minns' daughter-in-law, Marianne, has many fond memory of Murray over the years.
“He always joked about Jack hiring him and also letting him go,” said Minns. “Anytime I called him for different fundraisers he always jumped on board with his full support.”
Murray, and his wife, Geri, were guests of honour at the inaugural Jason Blaine Charity Golf Classic and Night with the Stars concert in 2013. In a Facebook post this week, Canadian country recording artist Jason Blaine said he was saddened to hear of Murray's loss.
“Mr. Murray left a true legacy on the NHL that began with coaching the Pembroke Lumber Kings and he never forgot his Ottawa Valley Roots, giving back to his community in so many ways over the years,” said Blaine.
After one season with the Lumber Kings, Murray went to the Rockland Nationals leading them to a Centennial Cup championship. He came back to the Kings in 1976 coaching them to two league championships as well as a Dudley Hewitt Cup. Shortly afterward, Murray was hired by the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. In 1981, he debuted with the NHL as coach of the Washington Capitals. There he established several records including all-time leader for most regular-season games coached at 672, the most regular-season game wins with 343, the most regular-season points with 769, the most playoff games coached (53), and the most playoff-game wins (24).
Murray later held coaching and management positions with Detroit, Florida and Anaheim before coming to Ottawa. Over his 35 years in the NHL, Murray won the Jack Adams award as NHL coach of the year in 1984 with the Capitals and executive of the year as general manager of the Florida Panthers in 1993. He coached 1,239 regular-season games over his NHL career, compiling a record of 620 wins (10th most in NHL history), 465 losses, 131 ties and 23 overtime losses. He had been serving as a senior adviser with the Senators after stepping down as general manager in 2016.
He never forgot the Ottawa Valley and his roots here, added Minns. Over the years, Murray supported the Boys and Girls Club of Pembroke and Miramichi Lodge. Minns said the coach was always generous with his time especially when it came to helping minor hockey players, including her sons, Chris and Mike, who have gone onto junior hockey careers.
“He was so great with Mike and Chris,” she recollected. “He always took time to visit and talk and gave them tours of the dressing room - faxed them words of encouragement to their team during their International Silver Stick Tournaments and shared hockey advice. He was such a kind hearted man - a true legend who will be missed greatly.”
Murray is survived by his wife, Geri, daughters Heide (Don Browning) and Brittany (Joe Grubb), and granddaughters Emma and Addie, all of Colorado.
A private family funeral will be held at Shawville United Church on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m. A Celebration of Life will be held on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. at Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre. Family, friends, colleagues and the public is encouraged to attend to honour Bryan’s legacy.