When Bryan Murray, the Ottawa Senators GM since 2007, first got the call seven years ago to come back home and coach the Sens hockey team, he didn't think twice about the move.
© Photo by Mark Holleron
Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators GM.
Despite the sunny weather and free access to Disneyland he enjoyed as GM of the Anaheim Ducks, Bryan and his family had already been talking about coming back to the area for quite some time. He says: "It's always been home for us."
As a hockey coach and general manager, much of Bryan Murray's life has been spent moving from place to place. Sometimes, Bryan had to live in a different city from his wife Geri and his two daughters, Heide and Brittany, at least until the sudden changes and school situations could be worked out.
So when Bryan got the opportunity to come back and coach the Ottawa Senators, he knew it was time to come home. Although this move came as a surprise to many in the hockey world, Bryan and Geri are happy to be back with friends and family, with frequent visits to their well-travelled daughters in Denver, Colo.
"Moving around a lot is just part of the business, but it can be hard on families," he says. "On the other hand, it means life experience is plentiful."
Bryan certainly has not lacked for great experience, especially in his chosen field; born and raised in Shawville, Que. as one of 10 children - five girls and five boys - sports was interwoven into the fabric of daily life.
"Things were very different back then," he recalls. "You just got yourself to the rink and played - you were very independent - and your parents wouldn't be tying your skates for you!"
Bryan's love of all things sporting led him to coach teams in high school - everything from football to track - and this is when he first tapped into his natural ability as a leader. After high school, he continued to follow his passion for athletics and trained to work as a gym teacher in Shawville. Soon after, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to buy a local motel. A second investment, Murray's Sporting Goods, is still running as a family business in Shawville.
Bryan's first big move came after successfully coaching Ontario's Central Junior "A" Hockey League, when he was asked to join the Western Hockey League to coach the Regina Pats. It was a major change, but he decided to give it a try.
"It was supposed to be just for a year, to see if it was a good fit for me," he says, adding that his wife, also a teacher, stayed back home to run
But what started out as "just one year" turned into a 30-year career, and in 1979 Bryan took the team to the Memorial Cup, garnering official recognition for his talent of bringing out the best in his players.
From there, he moved to his first position in professional hockey as assistant coach of the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, becoming head coach in 1980. Bryan continued to impress the hockey world, and partway through his second season was promoted to coach the NHL's Washington Capitals.
"It was after I got settled in with Washington that I realized that there was a good chance this is what I'd want to continue to do throughout my career," he says. And what a career it would turn out to be.
In seven full seasons with Washington, Bryan brought the team to the playoffs each year, and these were the first in franchise history. In his second year, the Capitals won their first playoff series. And for several years, it was a family affair: his brother Terry Murray was Bryan's assistant coach.
Next, he moved on to spend three years as coach and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, and they made the playoffs each year. He then became general manager of the Florida Panthers expansion team. When they made the Stanley Cup finals in 1996, Bryan was voted NHL Executive of the Year.
"It was an exciting time to be a part of the growth of hockey," he says.
Though being a coach and being a manager require two different skill sets, both call on Bryan's love of teaching and leading, as well as his business sense. When discussing coaching, in particular, his eyes light up: "It's fun interacting with the players. It keeps you young."
That youthful spirit and ability to wear many hats were things Bryan also shared with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Bryan got to know him during his next career move as coach and then GM of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, which Disney owned at the time.
"Meetings with Michael Eisner were fascinating. He was such a great multitasker and had so many different projects on the go. He'd say things to me like ‘Just give me a call if you plan to lose more than $20 million this year,'" he recalls with a laugh.
All joking aside, however, there's no doubt that Bryan's career has been filled with successes. His lifelong commitment to coaching is clear, and in 2007 he became the fifth NHL coach to achieve 600 victories.
As both coach and GM, his time with the Sens has had its highs and lows. But Bryan takes great joy in the team and the fact that they have such a loyal fan base and connection to their hometown.
"My career really grew out of a love of sport and a desire to give back," Bryan adds.
Undoubtedly, this is a goal that most hockey fans would agree he has achieved.
BRYAN'S FAVOURITE THINGS
Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray is the kind of guy most men would want to invite over to watch a game, share a beer and hear stories about life within the NHL. But his genuine kindness makes him appeal to women too; he is the quintessential "all-around nice guy."
TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT
Dream Car: Mercedes
or Lincoln MKS
FOOD & DRINK
Author: John Grisham
Mentor: His college hockey
and football coach, Bob Pugh
Sport (to play): Baseball
Hockey stick: Wooden Sherwood