Two of my oldest and most valued friends in hockey in my now almost half century working in the game have both been named Murray: brothers Bryan and Terry. I first met Terry in 1975 when he was playing for the AHL Richmond Robins, and then got to know his older brother, Bryan, five years later in 1980 when he got his first job coaching a professional team, the AHL Hershey Bears. Together I have been lucky enough to know the two Murray brothers for an aggragate of 79 years.
Terry and Bryan Murray
Today, however, our game lost Bryan at age 74 after a valiant three year battle with stage four colon cancer which has hit hockey very hard in recent years. Since long time Flyers chairman Ed Snider lost his battle with cancer in April, 2016, Bryan has become the 14th hockey friend I have lost with the majority being taken by cancer as well.
After Bryan's one season with the Bears he moved on to the NHL as coach of the Washington Capitals in 1981 and had been a distinguished figure in the league continuously ever since coaching not only the Caps for nine seasons, but also as coach and GM of the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and finally the Ottawa Senators who he led to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 and had managed until just last year. Over that time he guided NHL teams through 1,239 regular season games placing at 15th on the list the 366 men who have been a head coach in the league and earned him a record of 620-465-131-23 good for 1,394 points and a .563 winning percentage. He also collected 50 wins in 112 play-off games as well.
While Bryan never worked for the Philadelphia Flyers, he was actually almost once hired as its GM but the deal fell through at the last minute. His brother Terry, however, not only played for the Flyers but also coached the team for seven years (four as assistant coach and three as head coach) as well as two years as head coach of the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
I remember Bryan for his unfailing graciousness (although many NHL referees might disagree as he was known to yell at them from time to time), loyalty, and especially his quick wit and sense of humor. I last saw Bryan on the last weekend of the 2014-15 season when the Senators visited the Flyers needing one more win to make the playoffs after a remarkable late season run to get close. The Sens got that win beating the Flyers 3-1 but then lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round in six games. Bryan was already undergoing treatment for the cancer that took him today when we last saw each other, but he was still upbeat, greeted me warmly, and wanted to talk hockey.
Bryan Clarence Murray (1942-2017)
Over the years Bryan and I had many delightful conversations and in them he always mentioned that year he spent in Hershey three-and-a-half decades ago as one of the most delightful ones in his long career in the game. One of his favorite stories about his time there was of the Bears' then long time PR Director Brent Hancock who had been affiliated with the team since the 1930s. During WWII Brent had been a Marine serving in the Pacific and was involved in many vicious battles to take the islands in that theater. "Brent was such a quiet and modest guy," Bryan would say, "that I always wondered what it had been like for him in the War. So I asked him one day about what they did with any prisoners they took. 'Prisoners?' Brent replied, 'we didn't take prisoners. We just took them out in the jungle and shot them.' " Bryan said he never thought of Brent's quiet and gracious demeanor quite the same after that.
So RIP Bryan, my friend, you will truly be missed. I am sorry that you were never able to get your name on the Stanley Cup as either a coach or GM, but i certainly hope that you will be recognized down the line by the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder for your long and distinguished career in "our game".