BY COREY ERDMAN
In no other sport are the rules and governance questioned as frequently and passionately as they are in the game of hockey. Specifically in times of economic hardship, fans and pundits alike are quick to offer their number-crunching and bailout plans for the National Hockey League.
However, one former player who knows his numbers quite well has a less-complicated proposal.
“Stop tinkering with some of the things in the game, the game is good,” said Troy Murray, who enjoyed a 15-year NHL tenure with five different clubs, most notably the Chicago Blackhawks. “Let the game breathe, and let it be played the way it should be played.”
Murray has enjoyed a long journey through life that has ultimately led him back to the game of hockey; in this case, the press box hallways with former teammate Ed Olczyk, as a radio broadcaster for the Blackhawks.
A gifted two-way forward, the Calgary native began his amateur hockey career close to home with the St. Albert Saints, tallying 180 points in 120 games over two seasons. But despite his tremendous offensive output, scouts’ eyes were led to another Saints superstar.
“Mark (Messier) was a very unique individual, you could tell even back then that he was going to be a special player,” said Murray of the Hall-of-Famer, who bypassed major junior hockey and departed for the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Association as an 18-year old. “My parents actually had a team function at our house the night before he left for Cincinnati.”
Unlike Messier, scouts were adamant that in order for Murray to play professional hockey, he had to travel down the major junior road. Ever the entrepreneur, the future Selke Trophy winner opted to “do it his way.”
“I always thought that I might get an opportunity to play in the NHL, but I felt that what I really needed was an education,” said Murray.
After two contests with the Lethbridge Broncos of the Western League in 1979-80, Murray headed south to the University of North Dakota, where he could polish his hockey skills and eventually develop a penchant for business administration.
Two years, nearly half the credit hours required for graduation, and a national championship later, Murray was faced with the option of taking the next step. Not long after he hoisted the “Frozen Four” hardware the Blackhawks (who drafted him 57th overall in 1980) came calling for the 1981-82 playoff run.
Over the decade and a half he spent carving his career as one of the best defensive pivots of his era, Murray was also plugging away at achieving his degree through summer courses - one he eventually earned at DePaul University after his final pro season with the International League’s Chicago Wolves.
Like most retired athletes, Murray struggled to decide what he would do with the rest of his life and eventually found the answer close to home.
“My wife's brother was a trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange; I went down and saw him a couple times (in 1997) and met the people associated with the business down there,” said Murray. “It was something that was very interesting to me.”
In 1997, Murray began battling in a new kind of pit; this time without the fear of being crunched into the glass. Then 35 years old, he embarked on a successful career as an equity stock index trader alongside his brother-in-law, but his on-ice passions were simply that - on ice. In fact, his trader badge code was “CUP,” paying homage to his championship success with the Colorado Avalanche a year earlier.
Soon he was back at the rink, sharing his expertise part-time as a studio analyst for the Blackhawks between 1999 and 2004, before leaving the stock exchange to pursue radio broadcasting full-time. He is still eager, however, to use his financial expertise to provide analysis of the game.
“If you can put a product on the ice that is going to fill a building with 20,000 people and have local broadcast revenue, a strong local following and a team that performs well, the league is going to survive,” assessed Murray.
The allowance of physical play, including fighting, and the marketing of players who employ such a style of game is paramount to the league’s success, according to Murray.
“You look at (the recent Blackhawks jersey-retirement ceremony) with Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson, those are the players the NHL and the fans identify themselves with,” said Murray. “Wendel Clark and Bob Probert jerseys, in the day, were one of the hottest selling jerseys. Those are the players that sell, whether people like it or not, they sell the game of hockey.”
TheHockeyNews.com’s Backchecking feature examines the lives of former NHLers after their hockey careers finished. Click HERE to read more profiles.
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