You can listen to this podcast episode on all podcast platforms
Born in Lucknow, Ontario, Murray Murdoch would not only find success on the ice as a player and on the bench as a coach but he would also have some very interesting familial links in the hockey world that resonate to this very day.
As a young man, he would be raised in Edgerton, Alberta, where he attended school and was a member of the local scout troop. In 1917, he would become the first army cadet in the community with his friend Ralph Challenger.
In a relation of his family history, Murdoch would state that his family arrived in the community in August of 1909 and that his mother was the first women to spend a night in the community and that his sister Peggy was the first child born in the community. His mother would die in 1916, soon after the birth of his brother Thomas.
In June of that year, Murdoch completed his schooling and was sent to St. John’s College in Winnipeg where he would get his start in hockey.
He would attend the University of Manitoba where he played hockey from 1921 to 1924, earning a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics. It was while there, he would be discovered by Conn Smythe, who was building the new New York Rangers team. Smythe offered Murdoch a contract of $5,000 with a $1,500 signing bonus. According to legend, Murdoch was hesitant to go to New York, so he met Smythe in the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. Smythe leaned over and presented him with $1,500 in $100 bills. With that, Murdoch was on his way to the New York Rangers.
In 1926-27, he would begin playing full-time with the New York Rangers, the only team he would ever play for over the course of his 508 games in the NHL.
In his second year in the NHL, he would win the Stanley Cup with the rangers, and once more in 1933.
Following his retirement in 1935, he finished with 84 goals and 108 assists in 508 games with the team.
His best season of this NHL career would come in 1934-35, when he had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 48 games. In the playoffs during his career, he would have 21 points in 55 games.
One thing that is often forgotten about his time in the NHL is that he played 11 straight seasons and never missed a single game, playing in 508 consecutive games in total. At his 400th consecutive game, he was honoured by the New York Rangers and was called the Lou Gehrig of hockey.
Three years after he retired, he would become the sixth coach of the Yale University hockey team, a position he would hold until 1965. As a coach for Yale, he would finish with a record of 278 wins, 236 losses and 20 ties. He would also coach the team to Ivy League titles in 1940 and 1952, and he would lead his team to the NCAA Frozen Four in 1952. Overall, his Yale team would have 13 winning seasons and he would be remembered for helping to bring a quiet dignity and popularity to the sport at the university. His 278 wins as coach would be a record until beat by Tim Taylor in 2000. Upon his retirement as coach at Yale, he spent a further seven years at the university as the athletics administrator. Three players on his teams would play in the Olympics, two in 1948 and one in 1968, but none of his players would make the NHL. That being said, three of his players did go on to become owners of NHL teams. Northrop Knox could co-found the Buffalo Sabres, Bruce Norris would own the Red Wings and Gordon Ritz would become an original partner in the Minnesota North Stars.
In 1972, the Murray Murdoch Award was created by Yale to honour the annual hockey MVP.
In 1974, thanks to his contribution to hockey in the United States, he was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy.
In 1987, he was presented with the Hobey Baker Legends of College Hockey Award, and was made an honoured member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
In 2009, he was ranked #39 on the all-time list of New York Rangers greats.
He would pass away on May 17, 2001 in Georgetown South Carolina.
Now, about those familial links. Well, Murdoch is related to both Dave and Ken Dryden as they are his first cousins twice removed. His half-sister Maggie would marry Andrew Dryden, and their great-grandsons would be the Dryden boys.
Another big connection is to Mark Messier, another Hall-of-Farmer. Marie was the wife of Murray and the daughter of George Heinrich and Ina Dea. Ina’s brother John married Alice Stiles, whose grandson is Mark Messier.
Information for this piece comes from Wikipedia, HockeyDB, Greatest Hockey Legends, The New York Times and Winds of Change.