As part of its 50th Anniversary Celebration, Canadian Interuniversity Sport presents the CIS 50th Anniversary Success Stories series. Each Thursday throughout the 2011-12 season, we will profile two alumni from CIS member institutions who have made outstanding contributions in areas such as sports, business, politics or in the community.
Murray a coaching success story on every level
Former NHL and Team Canada head coach credits his professional success to a start at Brandon University
Andy Murray’s career came from humble beginnings, but his accomplishments are truly remarkable. Three-hundred and thirty-three wins as an NHL head coach. The first head coach of Canada’s men’s hockey team to win three IIHF gold medals. Over thirty years of experience coaching almost every level of competitive hockey. And to think it all started because of a hockey fight.
Murray, a native of Souris, Manitoba, got his first coaching job in 1976 when he was 25 years old. The Brandon University alum had spent three years as quarterback for the Brandon Bobcats and four seasons playing for the ‘Cats men’s hockey team before a brawl in a junior hockey pre-season game left the Brandon Travelers in need of a replacement coach.
“Right at the start of the season they were in need and they happened to give me a call, and I was just excited to have the opportunity,” recalls Murray. “The next day I was a head coach in the Manitoba junior league against coaches that had been coaching a lot longer than I had. I was obviously very green but very enthused and excited for the opportunity.”
Murray’s time coaching in the junior ranks was short-lived but successful. As a player he was known as a prolific scorer and pugnacious attacker. As a coach he was considered a student of the game, a fitting description of the man who would become head coach of BU’s hockey team in 1979.
When he took over, the team had spent the previous few seasons toiling in mediocrity. In two short years he turned the program around, leading the 1980-1981 Bobcats to a 23-1 record, a #1 national ranking and a berth in the national championship.
“I felt that we had one of the top five teams in the country,” says Murray. “We recruited a lot of players out of south-western Manitoba and supplemented the rest with players from Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.”
Since his time leading the Brandon Bobcats Murray’s coaching duties have taken him across the globe. The past twenty years have been particularly busy, having served as an assistant coach for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars and Winnipeg Jets before leading the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings as head coach. In spite of his career successes Murray has never forgotten his roots, finding time to return home to Brandon to lead his summer hockey school.
“It’s just so much fun for me to be out on the ice with all the talent from south-western Manitoba and there are some great coaches in this part of the province,” Murray points out. “To be quite honest I’m not sure that I’m the best coach on the ice. I’m learning every day from these guys. It keeps me young and inspires me to be a better coach.”
This fall Murray will return behind the bench after being named head coach of the men’s hockey program at Western Michigan University. For Murray, it’s the perfect role, returning to his roots of coaching university hockey and bringing his hockey- coaching career full circle.
“You have a bucket list, and on that bucket list was something I hadn’t done yet in coaching in the NCAA,” remarks Murray. “To have this opportunity is something I’m very much looking forward to. There’s no question that any opportunities I’ve had in hockey are because of the people I’ve had a chance to work with. The opportunity to coach professional hockey came because of the type of players I had at Brandon University and the fact that we had success there.”