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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

I know it took place way back in the early stages of Game 3 between the Rangers and Canadiens.

I also know the repercussions of the incident may have been rendered moot because the Rangers won Game 4 on Sunday night and with a 3-1 lead in the series are on the verge of advancing to the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since they won it all exactly 20 years ago.

But, sorry gang, I still can’t comprehend yet another laughably toothless verdict that was handed down by the NHL to the Canadiens Brandon Prust for what, in the exact words of the Department of Player Safety, was described as a “late, violent hit to Rangers forward Derek Stepan, causing an injury.” [Specifically, a broken jaw, which the league was aware of by the time it rendered its decision and which has sidelined Stepan indefinitely.]

Two games, for a hit, again quoting directly here, that was delivered “well past the point when a player should have to remain on guard for an opponent finishing a check.”

Two games, for a hit by Prust, who “drives his left shoulder up and into Stepan’s chest and jaw well after he releases the puck.”

Two games, despite the fact “Prust is in complete control of this play” and “the onus is entirely on Prust to avoid contact completely.”

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

First and foremost this week, a few words about the late Shirley Fischler, who died earlier this month after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

I first met her right around the same time her husband Stan fortuitously came into my life in the mid-1970s, both of us ultimately destined to collaborate in the revival of The Hockey News, which at the time was in dire need of a major facelift.

I spent more than a few memorable days at the Maven’s home office on the upper west side of New York, utilizing what were the best resources in New York—if not North America—to dig into whatever background information was required for a hockey story. Hard as it is to believe now, in those dark times before the arrival of the Internet and virtually instant access to any imaginable fact or figure, actual research was required.  So instead of schlepping to the library on 42nd Street, I’d take the subway uptown to Stan and Shirley’s. There, every conceivable nook, cranny and desktop was jammed with current and back issues of NHL and team media guides, reams of back issues of newspapers and magazines and, of course, Stan’s endless array of books about hockey, many of whom were co-authored by Shirley.

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

The timing was curious, to say the very least.

Sometime around 8:30PM EST on Monday evening, the NHL announced that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was being fined $5,000 for the “unsportsmanlike conduct” it deemed he exhibited when he squirted Sidney Crosby with his water bottle after the final buzzer of the Rangers victory in Sunday night’s Game 6 showdown at Madison Square Garden.

This news came in the wake of an earlier, unofficial, wave of stories which indicated there would be no fine for Lundqvist.

No problem with the fine for Hank. After all, the league had already established a no tolerance policy for water-based frivolity, fining Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton over $2,800 for his not-so-surreptitious Sunday night squirt of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. Thornton was sitting on the bench when he squeezed; P.K. was part of the play taking place right in front of the Bruins bench.

(Lundqvist got a stiffer fine, the maximum allowed the NHL’s Players Association, because he makes a lot more money than Thornton’s $1.1 million salary.)

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

It was a night to remember for defenseman P.K. Subban last Thursday in Game 1 of the series between his Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. He was the best player on the ice for the entire game and he capped a brilliant performance by scoring his second goal of the evening in double overtime.

And that’s when P.K.’s night to remember became one to forget for the city of Boston where, it was determined by a social media company, over 17,000 tweets exploded soon after P.K.’s winning goal, every one of them featuring the simultaneous use of the terms Subban and the N-word. 

The perpetrators of this garbage don’t even deserve the time and space it takes to identify them en masse for who and what they are—gutless, hate-spewing cretins who wrap themselves in the insidious cloak of anonymity that Twitter handles can provide. 

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

A few thoughts in the wake of what was the major topic of discussion early this week—the hit on Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews by Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Predictably, there were opposing reactions to the hit, all of which can be summed up by the opinions of two well-known hockey pundits.

Greg Wyshynski, aka “Puck Daddy” at yahoo.com, delivered an impassioned defense:

“It was a hellacious check by one of the NHL’s best hitters,” he wrote, “injuring one of the NHL’s best players. Was it headhunting? No. Was it a defender taking liberties with an opponent? No, unless we’ve redefined any hard check in the game as ‘borderline.’”

An interesting take, and one that completely avoided the fact that we’re not talking about just any hardnosed player who delivered the hit, but Orpik, a player whose shady reputation precedes him, a point that was thoroughly covered by Mike Milbury on NBCSN after the game.

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

So there he was again last Thursday night, doing something dangerous, stupid and inexcusable.

We’re talking about James Neal, of course, the clueless forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins who continues to exhibit dangerous, stupid and inexcusable behavior, with impunity, because the NHL apparently has no interest in imposing a punishment that will even give him pause, never mind stop his reckless behavior. 

For those who aren’t up to speed, in the second period of a game against Detroit Neal delivered a vicious crosscheck to the head of Wings forward Luke Glendening. He had plenty of time to think about what he was about to do, like maybe hitting his opponent cleanly. But that’s not how James rolls, is it? And why should he when the league keeps coming up with its laughably toothless responses? In this case it was a $5,000 fine. Chump change for a guy who pulls down a salary of $5 million a year. No hearing, no suspension, no real punishment.

Remember, this is the same guy who got a puny five games last December for going out of his way to deliver a knee to the head of Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who was on all fours at the time. 

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

A few thoughts in the wake of the gold medal victories in hockey for the men and women of Canada.

First, the men.

We can talk all we want here in the States about our players being as good as the Canadians, and maybe on paper we are, man for man, all the way down the line. But the simple truth is we can’t begin to compete with them in the area that really matters, that mattered most when the semifinal showdown between our two countries took place last week:

It means more to them than it does to us. It’s not just a game up there, it’s a religion, or close to it. And when Canadian teams play for their country, they’re also playing a game that is truly theirs. They take that designation seriously, protect it fiercely and play ferociously. After all, the image of an entire nation is on the line.

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  Tags: sochi+olympics, tom+murray

Murray Musings- Rule 49.2 Needs A Review

By Tom Murray,

The “kicking motion” rulings that are coming out of the NHL’s War Room of late—or not—are beyond maddening, not only because of their lack of consistency, but also because with every decision we seem to get a new definition for what exactly Rule 49.2 describes as a “distinct kicking motion.”

And you need look no further than two games that were played over this past weekend.

At 3:45 of overtime in a Saturday afternoon game between the Blues and the Islanders, Franz Nielsen of the Isles fires a puck to the front of the Blues net as teammate Thomas Vanek heads for the crease. The puck bounces off his right to his left skate as Vanek is backing in towards the net, then slides under the pads of goalie Jaroslav Halak for what appears to be the winning goal for the Islanders.

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Murray Musings- News/Views

By Tom Murray,

News: Lots of it this past week. Let’s start with the biggest and most recent story: Saturday night’s line brawl in Vancouver between the Canucks and Flames and the meltdown by Canucks coach John Tortorella in the hallway outside the Flames locker room at the end of the first period. After an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Colin Campbell on Monday morning, Tortorella was suspended without pay by the league for 15 days, through February 2, which means he’ll miss a total of six games.

Flames coach Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 for his part in the proceedings.

Views: Absolutely the right decision by the league. And one that certainly was supported by P.J. Stock of CBC, who on Saturday evening almost went into convulsions in his criticism of Tortorella, whom, he made crystal clear, should have “defused” the infamous opening lineup decision made by Hartley. Really? Torts was supposed to put the Sedins and David Booth or three other pacifists on the ice against Blair Jones, Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth?

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Murray Musings- Living The Dream

By Tom Murray,

It’s a Friday night a few weeks ago and my oldest son Tommy and I are on our way up to Flint, MI to watch a hockey game.

Well, not just any game. The Wenatchee Wild, from Wenatchee, WA, are in town to play the first of two that weekend against the Michigan Warriors. The two teams are part of the 24-team North American Hockey League, one of the top junior hockey leagues in the United States, and we’re looking forward to watching a particular player on the Wild.

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100 Books & Counting For The Hockey Maven

By Tom Murray,

First of all, before I write another word, a confession:

Stan Fischler, aka “The Hockey Maven,” is an old and dear friend. I figured I’d better share that fact before diving into a review of his latest effort, “We Are The Rangers,” which represents a bit of a milestone in his publishing career: It is his 100th book.

It is of course a remarkable accomplishment, but then again maybe Stan truly had no choice: His birthday is March 31st, a date he shares with Gordie Howe, aka “Mr. Hockey.”

Mr. Hockey and The Hockey Maven, both destined from birth to accomplish remarkable hockey feats--one on the ice, the other off it. Although Stan will be the first one to say he was always a pretty good skater too.

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Murray Musings- Shanny’s Time Has Come

By Tom Murray,

I begin this week with a disclaimer of sorts--for again focusing on a hit and its repercussions. It’s a recurring theme I’d truly like to get away from. But how to do so when the controversial hits keep coming?

This time around it’s the one that was recently delivered by Capitals rookie Tom Wilson on Flyers forward Brayden Schenn.

When I first saw it, my immediate reaction was that it had to be a suspension, for at least what was a reckless and irresponsible charge that led to a scary collision.

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Murray Musings- News & Views

By Tom Murray,

News: The Boston Bruins Shawn Thornton gets a 15-game suspension for attacking the Pittsburgh Penguins Brooks Orpik.

Views: Good for Brendan Shanahan. In the days leading up to Friday’s hearing and Saturday’s decision, the conventional wisdom was that Thornton would get anywhere from eight to 10 games. The 15 he received is appropriate for what he did, which was not, as Shanahan stated, “a hockey play that went bad, nor do we consider this a spontaneous reaction to an incident that just occurred.”

But it all raises an obvious question: Why did Orpik’s teammate James Neal get only five games for his knee to the head of Brad Marchand in the same game? Like Thornton’s act, Neal’s was also vicious, premeditated and could have ended horribly. Keep in mind that Neal had been suspended twice before; Thornton’s suspension slate was clean. The fact that Marchand was uninjured and returned to play in the game shouldn’t have been taken into account any more than  the news that Orpik--carried off the ice on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital--recovered in time to join his teammates on their return to Pittsburgh after the game.

Both acts were heinous and inexcusable and both players should have received punishments that were commensurate with their actions. Thornton was the only one who did.

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Murray Musings- The Cringe Factor

By Tom Murray,

It was a cheap and dirty act, intentional and irresponsible. And the result could have been far worse than it turned out to be.

No. Not Shawn Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik last Saturday night. More on that in a bit.

This happened just a few moments earlier in the first period of that game in Boston between the Bruins and Penguins. After being tripped up by Sidney Crosby, Bruins forward Brad Marchand was on all fours, scrambling to get back into the play when the left knee of Penguins forward James Neal connected with Marchand’s head, knocking him back to the ice and spinning him around 180 degrees. Replays clearly show Neal moving to his left, away from a clear skating path, and then heading right for Marchand, flexing his left knee into Marchand’s head as he skates by him. 

“It’s the dirtiest thing I might have seen this year,” said CBC’s P.J. Stock, “and that’s what you have to get out of the game.”

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Murray Musings- A Voice We Need To Hear More

By Tom Murray,

What a treat it was last Saturday night to come across Ken Dryden being interviewed on MSG’s post-game show. He’s well into his 60s these days, still boyish and bookish even decades removed from that magical spring of 1971. That’s when the Cornell graduate suddenly appeared in the Montreal Canadiens net, just in time to lead them to an improbable upset of the Boston Bruins on their way to the Stanley Cup. Dryden won the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process and launched a Hall of Fame career that was as brilliant as it was abbreviated: six Stanley Cups in just seven years--during which he took a year off to prepare for the bar exam--before walking away from it all, after his final championship in 1979.

Always thoughtful and cerebral in his playing days, Dryden was a terrific post-game interview and, it turned out, an even better writer. In 1983 he produced a book called The Game, which gave readers a fascinating insiders look at that final championship season of 1978-79 as well as the demands and challenges he faced on and off the ice. Sports Illustrated ranks the book, which really reads as a soulful memoir, as one of its Top 10 of all time. Dryden is making the rounds these days to not only celebrate the 30th anniversary of the book, but also mark the publishing of the commemorative edition of what is truly a hockey classic.

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Murray Musings

By Tom Murray,

Years ago, when Bob Verdi was covering the Blackhawks for the Chicago Tribune, I was lucky enough to be able to sign him up as a columnist (along with Stan Fischler) for The Hockey News. And every week he would deliver his “News & Views” of all that was going on in the game. So Verd, this one’s for you:

News: 50th Anniversary of JFK assassination.

Views: Hard to believe. Even harder to grasp--never mind admit--I’m old enough to remember that day. The memories haven’t faded over the years, starting with the appearance of my school’s principal in an afternoon class, somberly announcing the president had been shot and we were all to go home immediately. Then later that day, my sister waiting for my dad to arrive home from work, spotting his car and then racing to the end of the driveway, waving her arms. The car stops. His window rolling down. Did you hear about the president, she wonders. Then the wheels spinning, screeching, gravel spraying and the car roaring past her and all of us and into the garage. But what I remember most is I had a hockey game the next morning and we were supposed to go that night to some local store--dating myself yet again here; was it the long-defunct E.J. Korvette?--to buy new skates. Did I nervously approach Dad and dare ask if we were still going? Did he just gruffly say let’s go and off we went? I don’t remember. What I do recall is we did go to get the skates, just the two of us. And I remember how quiet that drive was and how sad Dad was. And how eerily silent the store was that night. Open for business as usual. People wandering about, life somehow going on. Then another sad and quiet drive back home. And yes I played my game the next morning.

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Final Season

Tom Murray will be writing a feature column on a regular basis for Kukla's Korner this season.

I do hope you enjoy his submissions and to find out more about Tom, click on his name.


By Tom Murray,

It finally hits me late last week, after the final cuts have been made and we’re driving home, talking about possible line combinations and the team’s first scrimmage next weekend.

This is going to be Tommy’s last season.

He’s a senior in high school now, just a few months shy of his 18th birthday, a shade under six feet tall but still growing, shoots right but not nearly enough, invariably preferring to make a pass and then heading for the front of the net to pick up a rebound or a deflection. The classic power forward—selfless, fearless and dependable.

And sometime next spring it’ll all be over.

It’s not like he’s never going to play again. He loves it too much. But he knows as well as I that this phase of the game and his life, our lives, is coming to a close. So for me anyway this fall is a time of sweet reflection and of memories I’ll always hold dear.

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