The dreaded, sappy NHL airplane blog..

May 25, 2007 | Nestor Aparicio

So, I’m on an airplane, reading USA Today and trying to kill time on my long flight.

Up pops a story on Page 3 about Bryan Murray, who was the first big-league coach I ever covered as a media member.

The story was SOOOO good…you MUST read it. It’s not about hockey as much as it is about integrity, honesty and hard work — all of my favorite things about sports and really one of the things that I loved about being around hockey. It wasn’t a "pretend" universe, like baseball. Most of the people I’ve met through the NHL over the years have been really normal, nice, mostly well-adjusted people. They certainly never acted like I was doing them a favor to be sharing the same oxygen, the way some in baseball seem to see the world.

The silver-haired Bryan Murray — at 64 years of age and after 17 years of head coaching and two major stints as an NHL GM — is four wins away from achieving his lifetime goal of winning a Stanley Cup as a head coach.

He is a hockey lifer and I’m pulling very hard for him and his family to win.

Bryan Murray was a good man!

Heck, I was 16 years old the first time I walked into the Capitals locker room in 1985, still in high school, working at The News American and just hoping to be able to break into being a sports writer.

The first weekend I covered a game, Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh died in a tragic, horrific automobile accident the first week of the season. It was a DEVASTATING time to be around a sports franchise, probably akin to what the St. Louis Cardinals are going through this season.

So there I was at the Capital Centre, eating the roast beef buffet in the media room — 17 and trying to act like I belong there, two days after the visiting team lost a young man and a goalie and a friend. And when I was 16, I looked about 13, so you can IMAGINE the glares I got and the stones it took for a man named Tom Gibbons, sports editor of  The News American, to send me there with a press pass.

After the game, Bryan Murray came into a tiny little cramped room with about 15 chairs and a makeshift podium, to do his post-game chat with the press. As a kid, I was awestruck by my good fortune, to be in an NHL locker room, writing about hockey for my Pop’s favorite newspaper.

But Bryan Murray was always a gentleman — very dignified and had that crazy lisp that never seemed to affect his confidence or the respect he commanded. His wacky Canadian accent was also always fun to imitate, and it seemed most anyone who covered the Caps on the beat, had a "Bryan Murray impersonation."

And it was never mean-spirited, just good fun.

Bryan was never hip, but he was never nerdy, either. He was just a decent guy, who loved hockey and who clearly knew what he was doing.

I covered several seasons of Caps games (later going to scores of games with Phil Jackman in his 1986 Nissan Sentra, rolling down the B-W Parkway at breakneck speed with tales of my Oriole childhood from the media side…I just ADORED Jackman!) when Murray was the coach. But my primary role as a writer in The Evening Sun sports department (when I wasn’t doing the scoreboard/agate page) was doing Skipjacks games while Bryan’s brother, Terry Murray, coached in Baltimore, for the Caps farm team.

MAN, THOSE WERE GOOD TIMES, sitting in Sect. 210 and 212 with the other 50 dorks like me who loved the Jacks!!!

Anyway, Bryan Murray got canned midway through 1989-90 season and Terry replaced him. I’ll NEVER forget that press conference, driving down to that little attachment to the Capital Centre to see one brother get fired only to see the other hired as the replacement.

One of the wackiest sports stories, ever, I think!

"Changing of the Murray brothers rocks Caps" was the headline.

Those were good times, those teams of Bryan Murray — Rod Langway, Mike Gartner, Dave Christian, Bengt Gustaffson, the late Gaetan Duschesne…some of my all-time, fun favorite teams.

I LOVED the mid-1980′s Caps and I got to cover them on a daily basis!

I was always crushed when they eventually went to an all-too-early April grave at the hands of just about every team in the Wales Conference. The loss to the New York Islanders in that Game 7 is still the most amazing and surreal sports event I’ve ever witnessed.

To be a Caps fan, was to live in perpetual agony!

For the record, I gave up my Caps fan card over two events: I HATED when they changed jerseys (just HATED IT!) and I HATED IT when they moved from Largo to downtown D.C. 

After a five-year hiatus, I wrote Ted Leonsis an email note and he sent me back one of the crappy responses I’ve ever witnessed. He was a jerk!

Then, I bought four tickets to a Sunday afternoon game one March and approached him in the upper deck and introduced myself. And he was a jerk again!

So, I haven’t been to a Caps game in years (and when I put it on TV, it seems MOST NOBODY goes!)…and it’s not like the Caps even contact me about coming down, going to a game, doing some marketing, running a bus — NOTHING!

They have ZERO presence anywhere in my life. I never even know if they’re playing, who they’re playing. They are the most invisible franchise I’ve ever seen!

Hockey is DONE as a major sport, and it breaks my heart!

But, I’m on a plane, reading about Bryan Murray, and thought I should point out Kevin Allen’s piece because it was a great read and will jog the memories of anyone who reads my blog who ever followed the Caps.

And Bryan Murray was a cool dude and enhanced my journey through the sports world.

His brother Terry Murray, was a sensational man — a guy who was always helpful and honest with me.

And, for me, it gives me a little bit of a rooting interest on Monday night for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals — the greatest quest in sports!

Game on…

Good luck to Bryan Murray and everyone in Ottawa.

I hope they bring the Cup "home" to Canada!

 

 

 

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