OTTAWA — Bryan Murray will receive a historic honour from the Ottawa Senators next month.
The club will make their former head coach and general manager the first inductee into their Ring of Honour at Canadian Tire Centre. Murray will be inducted Jan. 24 prior to the club’s home game against Washington, the franchise Murray began his NHL coaching career with in 1981.
“Anytime you work in a business where you’re recognized for something, it’s an honour,” Murray said Friday. “Certainly being in Ottawa, being in the NHL, the importance of the Senators organization in the city, to be recognized in this way is very special.
“To be the first guy is real nice.”
Murray’s NHL career as a coach and GM has spanned 35 years. He has spent the last 12 seasons with Ottawa, registering a 107-55-20 coaching record over two-plus campaigns and leading the Senators to their only Stanley Cup appearance in 2007.
Murray was named Ottawa’s general manager June 18, 2007 but returned behind the bench in February 2008 after John Paddock was fired, posting a 7-9-2 record. He ranks 14th in NHL history in games coached (1,239), 11th in wins (620) and in 1983-84 captured the Jack Adams Award as the league’s coach of the year.
Murray, 74, of Shawville, Que., also led Florida to the Stanley Cup as a coach and was Anaheim’s GM when it reached the 2003 final. Unfortunately, Murray’s teams have never claimed the hallowed trophy.
“The ultimate achievement in sport is to be recognized at the very top of the game and I know that winning a Cup is the ultimate goal for all of us,” Murray said. “But I think when you help develop people, influence people, do things for the game, in the game, be involved in your community those are all things that are somewhat important and maybe just as important.”
Murray, currently Ottawa’s senior adviser, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in June 2014. He continues to undergo treatment and says he’s feeling good.
“Everything’s stable at this point in time,” said Murray. “I wasn’t given this good news at the beginning, but now it seems like things are holding stable so you might have to put up with me for a lot longer.”
Murray stepped down as GM in April to take his present post and admits the new job took some getting used to.
“For 50-some years I’ve been used to getting up and going to work and being involved with people so that was a little more difficult,” he said. “I’m sure I made it difficult more often on my wife than she’s used to as well.”
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, in town for his annual kids charity skate, couldn’t say enough about Murray’s importance to the organization.
“I think Bryan Murray is going to be seen, looking backwards, as one of the great legacies of the franchise,” Melnyk said. “We went through a lot.
“Good times, bad times, but at the end of the day he’s as professional and stoic as it takes to be a good GM. He could handle pressure but could also enjoy the victories. In my books he’s one of the easiest to pick to be selected for the Ring of Honour.”
The Ring of Honour will be located in the arena bowl above the 300 level seats at Canadian Tire Centre. It will recognize individuals who’ve made great contributors to the organization.
Melnyk also addressed Ottawa’s attendance woes and a potential outdoor game in the Canadian capital while providing an update on the new stadium development.
Ottawa has yet to have a sellout this season and is averaging 15,357 fans through 17 home rates at the 18,572-seat Canadian Tire Centre. Melnyk cites the Redblacks’ Grey Cup run, an abundance of November games as well as payroll problems for federal government employees as factors for the Senators’ attendance challenges.
“I’m hoping in the New Year things turn around,” said Melnyk. “If we had a little baby winning streak, you know four out of five, three out of four, then I think that would change things quite a bit.”
Melnyk is hopeful plans for an outdoor game can be finalized soon. With Parliament Hill no longer an option as a venue, the Senators and NHL are looking at staging the contest at TD Place, the Redblacks’ home stadium.
Melnyk met Friday with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group representatives who oversee TD Place operations. Melnyk said much of the onus falls on the OSEG and NHL to finalize details.
“There’s a lot of moving parts and we’re out of most of it,” said Melnyk. “As far as we’re concerned we’re all in.
“We’ve been in since the beginning.”
Ideally, the game would take place Dec. 17, 2017 against Montreal to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game between the Senators and Canadiens on Dec. 19, 1917.
Melnyk said construction of a new stadium and surrounding infrastructure is progressing although paperwork and permits must all be completed before building can begin.