Murray Murdoch

Doug Jarvis is hockey's all time Iron Man with 964 consecutive games played. Before him it was Garry Unger and before him it was Andy Hebenton. Before all of them there was Murray Murdoch - hockey's original Iron Man, and an original New York Ranger.

Murdoch played in 11 successive seasons, never missing a single game. In total, he played in 508 straight regular season games, as well as 55 Stanley Cup playoff matches. This of course was during the days of a less than 50 game schedules, otherwise he probably would have reached a higher total of games played in succession.

Born on May 19, 1904 in Lucknow, Ontario, but raised in Edgerton, Alberta, Murdoch was a standout with the University of Manitoba. It was there where he was discovered by Conn Smythe who built the original New York Rangers team. Smythe, who would be replaced by Lester Patrick before the Rangers ever played a game, offered Murdoch a $5,000 salary and $1,500 signing bonus.

Murdoch was hesitant to leave to New York at the time. Smythe sent a telegram telling Murdoch to travel to Duluth, Minnesota to talk contract. Murdoch replied by telling Smythe to go out of his way and see him in Winnipeg! Smythe did, and Murdoch obliged, and despite the money being discussed he intended to say no.

"I remember sitting in the lobby of the Fort Garry Hotel, thinking it over, and I was just about to say no when Conn leaned over a coffee table and slowly counted out $1500 in $100 bills," remembered Murdoch. "That clinched it. For a young guy just married and with a summer job selling insurance, that looked like an awful lot of money."

Patrick placed Murdoch on a checking line with Billy Boyd and Paul Thompson where Murdoch utilized his studious understanding of the game. Later Butch Keeling and Cecil Dillon would fill in on the checking line. The 5'10" 180lb left winger scored 84 goals and 192 points in his 508 straight NHL games. More of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Murdoch was an integral part of two Ranger Cup wins in 1928 and 1933.

At the time Murdoch's iron man streak was quite the story. After he reached 400 games in a row, the Rangers honored him at Madison Square Gardens. The Yankees' Lou Gehrig, sports' most famous iron man, presented Murdoch with a plaque.

Murdoch's effectiveness began to erode following the 1933 Championship. In fact in his final two NHL seasons he only scored 2 goals and finished his career with the Philadelphia Ramblers of the American Hockey League.

However Murdoch received an offer to become a collegiate coach in 1939 which convinced him to retire as a player. He became the head coach at prestigious Yale University, helping to popularize hockey not only at Yale, but throughout American colleges. Murdoch coached for 28 seasons at Yale, establishing himself as a hockey legend on the collegiate level. His lifetime record at Yale was 263-236-20. He won Ivy League titles in 1940 and 1952 and led his 1952 team to the NCAA Frozen Four. In 1972, Yale established the Murray Murdoch Award to honor its annual hockey MVP.

In 1974 Murdoch was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States.

Before his death in 2001 at the incredible age of almost 97, Murdoch was able to share some of his very vivid personal memories. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge, able to share thoughts and first hand accounts of some of the great players we have only heard about.

Players like Eddie Shore.

"I knew Eddie when he was 15 and I was 17 and we went to the same school in Winnipeg. He got kicked out for smoking, as I recall. But he became a great defenseman. He had a way of coming around the net and up the ice, weaving along. It was hard to take the puck from him. But because I knew him, I knew you had to get him as he was coming around the net."

And Howie Morenz.

"He was the greatest player I ever saw. When he got the puck and took off up ice, he was one of the fastest skaters I have ever seen. He was like a streak of light."

And the Maple Leafs' "Kid Line" of Charlie Conacher Joe Primeau, and Busher Jackson.

"Conacher thought that when he went into the locker room between periods that I was going to go with him. [Along with linemates Paul Thompson and Butch Keeling] We shadowed them pretty good. When that line came on the ice, we had to go on against them."

And the most common question he got was about Lester Patrick's famous donning of the pads as a 44 year old coach in 1929.

"He went in and of course we had three or four coaches [from other teams] come down to coach the team while Lester was in the net. Montreal was shooting from a long distance and Lester was stopping them. Lester had played a certain amount of goal because we only carried one goaltender and when we scrimmaged he sometimes put on the pads and played goal and coached the defense. He could coach from that position. If they did something wrong, he was able to point it out to them.

"He let one goal in and Frankie Boucher scored the game-winner [in overtime]. It was 2-1."

Before his death he was asked about the evolution of the game.

"I never thought the game would go worldwide. It's surprising to me. When you read the names, they're hard to pronounce. The players come from all over the world. When I played, it was solely a Canadian game. We never dreamed there would be teams in Phoenix, San Jose, Florida.

"I like today's game very much. It's very fast. The stars are better today than they were when I played, but there aren't as many of them."


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