AHL Hall of Fame inductee Rob Murray was old school all the way

Author: Mark Divver, Providence Journal
Date: Jan 27, 2017

Rob Murray never put up more than 25 goals or 57 points in any one American Hockey League season. He wasn't the captain of four different AHL teams because he was a prolific scorer.

It was his intensity and fierce competitiveness that set him apart.

"He was the gold standard,'' according to Andy Brickley, a teammate of Murray with Moncton of the AHL.

Murray, 49, will be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame on Monday in Allentown, Pa., at the AHL All-Star Classic. It's a richly deserved honor for a classic old-school player.

In his 16-year pro career, across 1,018 AHL and 107 NHL games, Murray never shied away from the dirty work.

"I tried to make it miserable on the other team's best players. That was my job. I was a dirty player. That served me well in the role I was playing,'' he said.

Murray's peers will tell you how much he meant to the teams he played for, and how hard he was to play against.

"The first word that comes to mind is intense. I never played with a guy that had as much desire to win and to pay a price to win as he did. It was infectious,'' said Brickley, the superb Boston Bruins analyst on NESN.

"He was 100 percent invested, every shift of every game,'' said Ken Gernander, coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, an AHL Hall of Famer himself who played with and against Murray for many years.

"He would block a shot with his face. He would fight anyone. He would do whatever it takes to get the two points for his team. He was the ultimate team guy, '' according to Brent Thompson, the coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and a former Providence Bruins captain.

"He was a guy you didn't want to play against,'' said Denver University coach Jim Montgomery, a big scorer in the AHL. "Don't come through the middle. You might get hit hard, and you might get hit illegally.''

Murray, who was the head coach of the Providence Bruins from 2008 to 2011 and was an assistant coach under Scott Gordon for five years before that, is understandably excited to be recognized as one of the AHL's all-time greats.

"It's such an honor. I was really taken aback when I got the call from (AHL president) Dave Andrews,'' said Murray, now in his sixth season as coach and president of hockey operations for the ECHL's Alaska Aces.

"I'm really looking forward to it. I got some good news the other day when I found out that speeches need to be five minutes or less. I can do that.''

Murray honed his edge while playing junior hockey for the Peterborough Petes. "Don't take any days or nights off. That was our calling card. I can't tell you how many fights we had in practice every week. It was just the competitive nature of the team. That rubbed off on me,'' he said.

For fans, Murray was the classic example of a player who you loved if he was on your side, hated if he was not.

That was particularly true in Providence. While playing for Springfield in March 1996, Murray was at the center of one of the ugliest incidents in the long history of pro hockey in this city.

Murray delivered a crushing hit on P-Bruins rookie Bill McCauley, who suffered a concussion and a fractured jaw. No penalty was called.

McCauley went into convulsions before being carried off on a stretcher and hospitalized for four days.

Murray was suspended for four games. "In today's game, he might have gotten 20,'' said Thompson, who was in uniform for Springfield that night.

True to form, Murray didn't take a backwards step when asked about the hit years later. McCauley, Murray said, "should have kept his head up.''

To his everlasting credit, Murray was the opposite of the hit-and-run rats infesting the game today. "He always backed up any kind of hit that he made. He was a standup guy,'' said Brickley.

Former P-Bruins coach Gordon, now coaching the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms, recalled a game against Springfield at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in 2002-03, Murray's final season as a player.

"He got hit right by our bench. He went down hard. I very rarely say anything to the other team's players, but I was like, 'How's that feel, Murray?' I just wanted to give it to him because I hated him,'' said Gordon.

"He can't even see me, he's down on the ice. I see a hand reach up on the boards and he pulls himself up. He's standing there, looking up and down our bench, and he says, 'What's the big deal? It was a good hit.' Then I had a different perception of who he was,'' said Gordon, who hired Murray as his assistant later that year.

"For a player who played the way he did for as long as he did to get that (Hall of Fame) honor speaks volumes about his character and what he brought to so many teams that he played on,'' said Gordon.

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