On Saturday night, I had planned on doing something that I normally I would not do at this stage of my life. I was going to go to TD Garden and watch a hockey game. I was planning to go for one reason.
It was not to see the Bruins take on the Florida Panthers. Rather, it would have been to see one of my oldest and closest friends and colleagues, linesman Brian Murphy work his final NHL game before retirement. With well over 2,000 games officiated in the NHL, Murph has become the dean of NHL linesmen. He has kept himself in outstanding physical condition and is greatly respected not just by fellow officials but by players and coaches leaguewide.
I worked my first game with Murph in Hershey; an exhibition game in 1988. The Quebec Nordiques played the Washington Capitals. We stayed at the Marriott Airport hotel in Harrisburg, PA. Across from the hotel was a restaurant called Bob's Big Boy.
Murph and I sat down and ordered. Funny how you remember details like this. I had a bowl of soup, a salad from the salad bar and a coffee milkshake (frappe). Murph had soup, two trips to the salad bar, and a Bob's Big Boy double cheeseburger with fries. I watched as this 6'2" 240 lb giant of a man noshed all of this food down.
"May I ask a question? Do you always eat like this before a game?"
"Yes", Brian said. "I get kinda hungry."
"Well", I responded, " You keep eating like this and I can get you another job after the NHL lets you go for being over weight."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?" he asked, somewhat incredulously.
"I'll get you a job with Bob's Big Boy, standing on the roof!"
I guess the dialogue had some impact, but the credit goes solely to Brian himself. The Dover, NH native became, bar none, THE FINEST conditioned athlete on the NHL Officiating staff. He maintained it for over 23 years. You don't last 23 years and over 2,000 games in the NHL if you aren't in shape.
Beyond his superior physical conditioning, Murph developed into an outstanding official from both a technical aspect as well his ability to communicate effectively.
Congratulations, Murph, on
an outstanding career
. Congratulations, as well, to your wife Lisa and your daughters. Also, I want to thank you for your unwavering friendship off the ice as well as expressing my appreciation for how much you brought to the officiating crew on the ice.
It's been a pleasure watching you on the ice. You belong both in the U.S. Hockey Hall of the Fame and the "big" Hall in Toronto. Onto your next career in your life. It took a pandemic to stop you.
A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart.