As the Chicago Blackhawks prepared to honor former centerman and current WGN Radio Hawks color commentator Troy Murray with a Heritage Night on January 14, 2010, at the United Center, they were celebrating a player who embodies, perhaps as much anyone in the Hawks’ eighty-four year history, the spirit of the team.
So how does Murray see their Cup chances this year?
Troy Murray and Jonathan Toews: two Number 19s, two different eras, one goal in common.
If the audience and the media have romantic notions of the hockey player as professional warrior, Troy Murray knows the realities, being one of the few who reach the summit of the Stanley Cup.
Being assigned to check Wayne Gretzky as his ‘shadow’ during the epic playoff series between the Hawks and the Oilers, Troy Murray has battled the best of the best. His ability to articulate the nuances of the game make listening to his audio broadcasts an experience as vivid as any television image. His interviews with players give them a dimension as human beings that transcends the cliché. The candor of his critiques provides for us, a vision of hockey as only a champion can see it.
Troy Murray the player was about intensity. A contemporary of equally intense players like Mark Messier, Denis Savard and Steve Yzerman, Murray evidently values the character of hockey players as much as their ability.
During our interview, he exhibited a graciousness that compliments his passion for the sport. He values the relationships he built during his playing days, and remains close to those he has known over the years. One also senses he is ready at any moment to don his armor again and resume the battle on the ice, and at 47, he appears as fit as ever. Though clearly a loyal Blackhawk, his even-handed perspective on the team mirrors the rigor that made him a respected and valuable player. One of Murray’s recurring messages is that hard work can often trump talent. Echoing the hit Bob Seger song of his day, Troy Murray holds firm to what he thinks is right.
Born in Alberta in 1962, Troy Murray was a member of the ‘Clydesdale Line’ along with Curt Fraser and Ed Olczyk on the bruising Hawks clubs of the latter 1980’s and early 90’s. With his rugged two-way play and ardent work ethic, he became the first Blackhawk to earn the Frank Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in 1986, while still scoring 45 goals that season.
Chicago’s third-round draft pick in 1980, he had played for the Western Hockey League Lethbridge Broncos, and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. He also captained Canada’s World Junior team to its first Olympic gold medal in 1982, beating the USSR national squad in the process.
Jumping directly to the NHL from NCAA hockey—a rare occurrence—Murray made his debut in the 1982 playoffs against the Minnesota North Stars with immediate impact, playing in Chicago from 1982 through 1991 and 1992 through 1994.
That era is often evoked as one of hockey’s toughest and most exciting. Murray was part of the century’s last wave of elite Hawks teams, replete with talent like Tony Esposito, Denis Savard, Roenick, Doug Wilson, Steve Larmer, Al Secord, Dirk Graham and Ed Belfour among others. It is an era fondly cited by those whose Hawks affiliation precedes the almost uninterrupted playoff drought from 1998 to 2008.
He won the Stanley Cup, though not as a Blackhawk but as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, having also played briefly for three other NHL teams, the Jets, Senators, and Penguins. He retired following his Cup win with the Avalanche after fifteen years and five twenty-goal seasons.
Current Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, an assistant coach with that Avalanche Cup team, remembers Murray as “A very reliable, responsible and well prepared player. Very competitive, with a sneaky shot.”
Having established his family home in the area and successful as an options trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he was asked by the Hawks’ organization to step into the broadcast booth. Now in his ninth year, he commented the games on TV before moving over to WGN Radio where he partners the play-by-play call of John Wiedeman. A member of the Board of Directors of the Blackhawks Alumni, Murray’s personal commitment to Chicago has also manifested itself in continuing community work.
Left to right, former Hawk linemate and NHL TV color commentator Ed Olczyk, Hawks TV play by play man Pat Foley, Troy Murray and WGN radio play by play man John Wiedeman, during Murray’s Heritage Night at the United Center.
During Troy Murray’s Heritage Night at the United Center, asked to recall his most special moment as a Blackhawk, he replied, “The goal I scored in the last game of the season in overtime against Toronto (1989) to get us in the playoffs. We went on a really nice run after that and lost in the conference finals to Calgary.”
In an intermission interview with Olczyk and Pat Foley, Murray underscored his perspective on the Blackhawks then and now. “What we have here reminds me of what we had in the early nineties.”
Troy Murray has more than a few things in common with today’s Blackhawks, and this comes out in the broadcast conversations with the players. In addition, Murray shares the experience of being a Fighting Sioux and Team Canada World Junior, as well as the number 19, with another centerman who now represents the spirit of the Hawks, Jonathan Toews.
His observations, like his play blend intelligence, passion and competitive fire.
Troy, who were the players you admired, and did you try to model your own game on any of them?
“I grew up with Mark Messier, which was kind of a unique situation, as I knew him in my home town of St. Albert (where Troy and Mark played with the St. Albert Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League). I always looked up to Mark because he was a great all-round player, and thought early on, ‘Man, if I could be anything like Mark, that would be unbelievable.’
“Once I got into the NHL, I looked at a guy like Bryan Trottier, who again, was a great all-round player—a guy who had offensive skills, but also during a critical moment in a game, could be out there to protect a lead or score a goal.”
“I really learned a lot about that even before I got to the major leagues. When I was at the University Of North Dakota with (then-Championship-winning Fighting Sioux Coach, and now Executive Vice-President of the United States Hockey League) Gino Gasparini, he really stressed that you have to be able to learn to play in your own end. I realized that in order to succeed in the NHL, part of that was learning how to be accountable and be responsible inside your own zone. And I thought Bryan Trottier was amazing in that respect.”
You played a robust style of hockey, and the teams you played on featured some equally robust players. Among those you played with and against, who stand out the most in that regard?
“When I first came up to the NHL, I got a good taste of how intense it was, because in those days, fighting and intimidation were a big part of the playoffs.
“This is not a knock on today’s players, but in those days, everybody was held accountable in those days for their actions. You had to back yourself up and show you were there to compete. It wasn’t just a few ‘tough guys’—everybody had to play that role at some point.
Vintage Troy Murray: going to war.
“On the teams we had in those days, we all kinds of players who could be physical: Al Secord, Curt Fraser, Dave Hutchinson, Doug Wilson, for example. I looked at Terry Ruskowski, who was the Captain of the Hawks when I arrived, who had a shoulder that kept popping out almost every time he stepped on the ice. But here he was, going out and mixing it up and being a leader, doing what he was supposed to. I got a real eye-opener coming out of college, seeing how intense it was, and the things you had to do to survive in the National Hockey League.
“And it’s not that way in today’s game. In those days, there was a respect among the players in a different way, in that if you did something, you knew you were going to get challenged on the ice and you had to be prepared to respond.
“From the toughness perspective, one opponent who stands out was (defenseman) Harold Snepsts of the Vancouver Canucks. He was a big guy, but he seemed even bigger because he was so mean. He was a guy who could really hit you and make you not want to be on the ice at the same time as him. (Laughs)”
How did you make the transition after hockey to a career in business, and how and why did you eventually come back into hockey in the broadcast booth?
When I was with the Avalanche in ’96 after winning the Stanley Cup, I had been in four cities in about two years—going from Chicago to Ottawa to Pittsburgh to Denver. I’d just started having a family, and it was very tough, picking up and moving to different cities while renting out our house in Chicago. So that summer, I sat back and thought about what I wanted to do, and decided that I was finished with the NHL. As it turned out, my good friend (and former Hawks teammate) Grant Mulvey was the coach, and my agent Buddy Myers part owner, of the (AHL) Chicago Wolves. They invited me to join the team for a year while I got my feet back on the ground in the city, which worked out great, because they were very accommodating on a personal level. After that, my brother-in-law who worked at the Mercantile Exchange suggested I come down to work with him, so I took my exam, and I ended up being on the trading floor for about seven years.
“Then the Hawks organization asked me to the studio segments for their television broadcasts. At those days, it was the only road games that were telecast, and that was just forty-one nights a year with no travelling as my work was done in the studio in Chicago. So that worked out for my schedule, and wasn’t a burden on my family. When Dale Tallon, who was doing the radio and television simulcast with Pat Foley, moved into the front office, I was asked to take over his spot. Eventually, the broadcast functions were split up into separate television and radio programs, so I went over to WGN Radio with John Wiedeman, and Ed Olczyk joined Pat, which is where things are now.
An aspect rarely talked about is the burden NHL players have when it comes to having a family life, and the impact of being traded, for example. Can you tell us more about that?
“Well, nobody’s going to feel sorry for a professional athlete, especially in today’s day and age, you know, because the money is incredible. So people will say, ‘For that kind of money, you do whatever you need to do’, and that’s the truth of it. But it is hard when you get traded. You get ‘the phone call’, and suddenly you’re no longer part of the organization. You can’t go down to the locker room and hang out with the teammates you’ve been close to; you’ve got to get on the plane and move on to the next city. Maybe you get a chance to come back for a few days and straighten out your financial affairs, get things into moving boxes, and so on, but if you’ve got kids in school, it’s extremely hard for them, especially to be uprooted. Those are the things that people don’t realize, but it’s also part of what comes with being a pro athlete.”
Given the historical mystique surrounding the Blackhawks, is there a culture within the club that entails a certain kind of emotion attached to wearing the Indian head?
“There definitely is, and in my day, it was very hard core. That came from the players who had worn the jersey over the years, like the Stan Mikitas, the Bobby Hulls and so on.
“(The late) Keith Magnuson exemplified what a Blackhawk is all about. I was lucky to get to know him, because he was such a great ambassador for the Hawks. He was actually the coach of the team when I was drafted, and when he called me, I thought it was a joke for the first few minutes of the conversation, and then I said, ‘Okay, who is this?’—and he said ‘Troy, this is Keith Magnuson.’
“When Denis Savard talked about ‘Committing to the Indian’, he was talking about the pride in wearing the Indian, and being a close-knit group of guys ready to stick up for each other. If you were a rival coming into Chicago, you weren’t just going against one player—you were going against the whole tribe, so to speak. That’s really what Denis was talking about.
“There was a time after I left, and before the time when the new regime came in and turned things around here, that the pride was not there to the degree it had been. Denis saw that, and being a part of it, he knew that pride is what lives inside you. If you look at other sports, and you look at the pride of teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers—those teams have an identity, and you know what that identity is. When you mention the Chicago Blackhawks, that identity is something they are now trying to re-establish.
“It’s important that the players who come into the NHL, who come in to this ‘Original Six’ franchise, understand the rich tradition rooted in the organization which is embodied in the team’s symbol.
“I think that’s what the Hawks are trying to get back to, and they’ve got a really good group of young players that have a lot of respect for the symbol, the game, the tradition and the history of the Blackhawks.
When you look at today’s Hawks team, how do they compare to the one you played for?
“It’s hard to compare. But you can look at the way the two teams were built heavily through the draft. In terms of types of players, if you look down the middle, you’ve got Jonathan Toews now, where we had Tom Lysiak. You have Patrick Kane today; we had Denis Savard. The current team has Brent Seabrook; we had Doug Wilson. Like the current team, we also had a great core of players and a great support group.
“Back in those early eighties, we were all single, and we all enjoyed our time away from the rink and knowing each other—and so, we played hard for each other. That’s another similarity I’m seeing in this young group.
“It’s always unfair to compare different eras. Some people are comparing this team to the Edmonton Oilers from the eighties, as a team built on speed and one built through the draft. And the questions arise whether you can sustain this team, given the economics of the game.
“You look at the old Oilers: they eventually had to trade Gretzky because of a business decision. With today’s reality of the salary cap system, it’s hard to keep a core group of players together, and that’s something Stan Bowman has to deal with in the coming years.
“But I see similarities in this team and our team, in terms of both having young, skilled players. Not that I want to compare Patrick Kane to Denis Savard—it’s unfair because I never played with Patrick, who is in his own way tremendous, to Denis who was an elite player in his day as well.
“The parallel though, in the bond in both this team and our team, is important. When you come to play, and you trust each other on and off the ice, that’s when you have something special. And that’s what we have here.”
When you played, your game wasn’t about your stats, but what you could do to help the team win, how you win and how you play together. And you see that in some of the Hawks players now.
“That’s right, and it’s something that maybe isn’t taught enough to young players when they’re coming up. A player who makes it to the NHL may have been a great player in the league they came from, but when you get to the big league, it’s not about being an individual, being ‘the best player on your team and leading your team to victory’. You’re on a level playing field; and the coach now dictates that you now be part of a team rather than an individual, and you have to, as the saying goes, ‘check your ego at the door’.
“Very few individuals have been able to completely dominate the game of hockey to the point where ‘that one player can win you the Stanley Cup’. Certainly you need those great players, but without a great team, you are not going to win.”
How has the game changed, from the way you experienced it as a player, to the way you see it now as a broadcaster?
“It’s much more of a speed game. It’s more of an open game, with the new rules they put in place. The athletes are better conditioned; they’re more aware of what they have to do on a regular basis, all season, and all year round, to make them capable of competing at the NHL level.
“When I came into the league, we did drills in the neutral zone where you clamped on to a player, and you interfered with him. With the new rules, you can’t do things like that, so the tempo has changed. Not that the players then weren’t as fast then; but the way that the game is played now, is faster. And the physical part of the game has changed, because you’re not allowed to battle in front of the net and in the corners, the way you used to.
“That physical part of the game was also part of the entertainment in those days, and it singled out those elite players who were ready to go into those heavy traffic areas from the players that did not.
“There’s no slowing players down now. You go full out for forty-five or fifty seconds, and there’s no reason for you to stop your feet moving. And there’s nobody to stop you from keeping your feet moving.
What is different in how fans watch the game, as opposed to how players observe the game on the ice; and for a player turned broadcaster like yourself, from the booth?
“The main difference from the way a fan sees the game, and the way I see it, is that I have an understanding of how fast it is, on the ice. The fan watching the game doesn’t understand how truly little time these players have to make a decision.
“For a guy like a Patrick Kane or a Wayne Gretzky, they see things at a different speed from even the best players in the NHL. When a fan says, ‘Why did he do that?’ they don’t realize that a player doesn’t have the luxury of time. There may be somebody coming up behind you at a million miles an hour ready to take your head off.
“When you’re in an arena or watching on TV, you’re thinking, ‘There’s all kinds of time and space out there’. But actually, decisions have to be made in a split second, and sometimes they’re the wrong decisions. If you’ve played the game, you understand why that happens.”
You often use the word ‘discipline’ and its importance in hockey. What is your definition of discipline, and what how does it affect players and a team?
Discipline is really about focus. When the coach tells you ‘this is how you’re going to succeed’, you have to have the discipline to play within that structure. You may want to do something, and you may want to go ‘outside the box’ to do something on your own, but you have to have the belief in what’s going on in the structure. You have to trust the coach to give you a game plan that will be successful.
“Discipline goes into so many areas. Somebody may punch you in the face, and you want to punch him back, but still have to have the discipline to know not to take a penalty. Discipline means preparing yourself for the game—not do like we did in my day, going out at all hours of the night. Discipline means all of these things to the professional athlete, as it means specific things in the context of a particular game and the game itself.
“It extends also to areas like penalties that a team takes or doesn’t take. For so many years, the Hawks were one of the most penalized teams in the league—and it wasn’t so much the fighting. It was an undisciplined way of playing hockey. If you take a bad penalty, it costs your team. It’s taken a while to change that mentality, and adjusting people’s thinking to be, ‘What do I need to do to be better and to make the group successful?’ Nowadays it’s all about playing smart and playing within the system. It’s not about putting yourself and your ego ahead of the team.”
Having won a Stanley Cup, and having come close a number of times, what is the most difficult thing about trying to win one?
“The one thing you take out of it, when you don’t win a Stanley Cup, is how much you had left to give; how much you didn’t give, and how close you were.
“The teams that win are the teams that understand, that though you might not be the ‘better’ team, that you were prepared to do things better than the other team. You go back to that old story of the Oilers walking past the Islanders’ locker room after they lost their first Cup Final to New York. The winners had ice bags all over them, they had black eyes, they were beat up, cut up—well, that was the mentality of the Islanders; that they knew what it took to win.
“For teams that are good teams, and get close, I hope that they realize that they’re not that far off. But they may not get another opportunity. A team that goes to the Stanley Cup Finals may not make the playoffs the next year. They may not realize how close they were to winning it. That’s a major factor in why a team wins, and why it doesn’t win a Stanley Cup.
“And guys who have been there are a factor, as they were in ’96, the year I was with Colorado and we won. I was brought in as an older experienced player to help Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. When we made the deal with the Canadiens for Patrick Roy, we brought in a guy who had a won a Stanley Cup. In that deal, we got Mike Keane, who’d been the Habs’ captain when they won the Cup. We had Claude Lemieux, who’d won a Cup. Those players kept pushing the right buttons to make sure we were on the right path as we were going through the playoffs.
“That experience is so critical to a young team, and that’s why a John Madden is so important; because he can push the right buttons. He can say, ‘Listen. We may be tired. We may think we’ve given everything we can. But there is more. There’s always more that we can give, to win the Stanley Cup.’ And that’s the difference.”
What are the challenges to the Hawks’ Cup aspirations, and what are the keys to success for them?
“You look at what happened last year, and they were close. They were close to beating Detroit, but I honestly believe the ‘mind frame’—that they could beat Detroit—was not there. The mind frame was there when they played Calgary, and I could see it; it was there against Vancouver. But I had a different feeling when I saw the Hawks and Wings play in the Conference Final.
“I think the ‘intangible’ the Hawks have now, is that they saw what Pavel Datsyuk did, they saw what Henrik Zetterberg did, how hard those guys work. They were the best players.
“I already see the difference this year, for example, in the way Patrick Kane approaches the game away from the puck. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are two of the best players offensively, but they’re also Selke Trophy finalists. That’s the mentality that Toews and Kane, and all the skill players, have to have.
“Marian Hossa, I think, has really seen, in the last couple of years, what it takes to win, and he’s seen the difference. He and John Madden are going to be part of that ‘intangible’.
“What the Hawks need to do is to continue their progress. They can’t be satisfied. If they lose their edge, and the desire to be better, then that could make the difference.
“They got Bolland back; and Burish in the lineup for the playoffs—and he was so important there. They have good depth in their top two/three lines. They’ve got good skill on the defensive side. The spotlight will be on the goaltending as they move into the playoffs.
“There are things that need to happen correctly, but as long as you understand how close you are—and I think they have a good idea.
“The Hawks knew how physical those playoff games were against Vancouver and Calgary, but that was a different kind of challenge. It was a different game against the Wings—not so much physical as it was outcompeting them and having the mind frame that you can beat the Red Wings.
“Pittsburgh had that ‘mind frame’ in the Finals against Detroit this time around. They said, ‘We’re gonna play these guys, and you know what? We’re gonna beat ‘em.’ It wasn’t easy, but they looked like they had the same mental edge that the Red Wings did, and then it almost looked like they were wearing down the Wings mentally.”
Considering the long-time rivalry between the Hawks and Wings, what did you find was special about the games and playoff series you played against them?
“Growing up watching the Original Six teams on ‘Hockey Night In Canada’, the idea of rivalry was already part of my hockey culture when I came here. The idea that you hated the Wings or you hated the Leafs, for example, or that when I played at the University of North Dakota that I was supposed to hate the University of Minnesota Gophers, and that I was supposed to hate the University of Wisconsin Badgers. And that was the way it was.
“When I first came up to the NHL, while I knew the rivalry between Chicago and Detroit went back to the early days of the league, at that particular time, the Wings weren’t very good. That is, until a guy named Steve Yzerman came along and revitalized them. The Wings drafted well, and they built the team around him, and suddenly this was a great rivalry once again.
“The wars we had with the Red Wings in their heyday, with players like Bob Probert and Joey Kocur, they were incredible. You were getting ready to play those games a week ahead of time. Even though you had games in between, you knew what was coming up against the Red Wings.
“Later, when the Hawks were in a decline, the Colorado Avalanche replaced them in that rivalry with Detroit. But when you see the resurgence of the Blackhawks and what Rocky Wirtz has done, as well as John McDonough and Jay Blunk, what they’ve done to revive it is nothing short of fantastic. The Hawks-Wings rivalry is back, and it’s alive.
“You saw the results of that last year, when the people started talking about the Blackhawks as a threat to the Wings. The Winter Classic last year was a measuring stick, in that they were still not ready to knock off the Red Wings and showed the Hawks still had steps left to take before they could dethrone Detroit.”
To your point that championships are won not only on skill, but on ‘intangibles’: do today’s Blackhawks have the ‘intangibles’ that can help them become Chicago’s first Stanley Cup Champions since 1961?
“I think they do. And I think that if Stan Bowman doesn’t believe that they do at the season’s end, then they will acquire those ‘intangibles’.
“If you look at the intangibles on the upper end as part of the skill, the Blackhawks have that. One of the intangibles that is underrated right now, is John Madden. He’s an intangible that filters into the locker room.
“I think it’s important that Ben Eager came back into the lineup. Adam Burish is an intangible that the Hawks would have loved to have throughout the whole season. They were part of what was so successful on the Blackhawks’ fourth line last year: it wasn’t any one thing, like scoring or any one thing; it was an intangible in what they brought every game. Dustin Byfuglien is an intangible, because he’s a unique player.
“There are so many things that need to happen right. Do I think the Blackhawks have all the ingredients through the line? Yes, I do. I think the potential is there.
“And the most important thing is that the people who have those intangibles, play to their potential.”
“There’s another intangible that the Blackhawks are learning. You remember the comeback game against the Flames (where the Hawks rallied from a 5-0 deficit in October 13, 2009 to win 6-5—Ed.). Who started that comeback? John Madden with his critical goal. That’s an intangible. John Madden doesn’t know when to quit.
“The Blackhawks believe in themselves. They have the belief at any point in a hockey game that they’re still in it, no matter how many goals they’re down. That’s a belief in the locker room, and that’s something you didn’t see a couple years ago—in the players, in the product, in the personnel.
“Part of that comes from Jonathan Toews. He’s a winner. He does not want to be a ‘second place person’—he wants to be a ‘first place person’. That’s part of why they made him the captain even at such a young age. Because he’s a winner. And everyone feeds off that.
“Has he won everything yet? No. But everyone understands what Jonathan Toews is all about. He walks into that locker room, and he doesn’t have to say anything. He’s won at every level, and that’s why he’s the young captain of this team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
“Another intangible this team has now, partly thanks to Jonathan Toews and veterans like John Madden, is leadership. Leadership is not just something you’re born with. It’s something you learn from others who have experience as leaders. That’s something that is being established in the Hawks’ locker room, a core group of leaders, who can learn and pass along what they learn to the others.
“Detroit is a great example. You see the results of their leadership and their hard work. There’s no denying they want to be best.
“The Blackhawks have seen that, and they know that you can have talented players, but in the end, it’s about so much more. And they now understand what that is.”
Looking ahead to the Blackhawks-Predators matchup in the first round…there’s a lot of talk about possible upsets by ‘underdogs’ in this year’s playoffs. Do you see any parallels between this series and ones you experienced, specifically the one against the North Stars (who were considered underdogs by virtue of 38-point regular season gap, but defeated the Hawks in six games) in 1991?
“I’m not sure there’s a parallel. If I remember correctly, the North Stars scored a ton of power play goals in that series; in fact they may have set a record at the time.
“There are some parallels between this year’s team and the 1991 Hawks, in that this team, like that one, was built through the draft. There are some parallels between this year’s team and the 1991 Hawks, in that this team, like that one, was built through the draft. And like this team with Toews and Kane, for example, we had a strong young core group, in our case, with Savard and Roenick.
“As far as being an underdog is concerned, the Hawks were in that position last year. Calgary and Vancouver were favored, and yet the Blackhawks managed to get past them. So they understand what being an underdog means.
“One of the things you do have watch for as a favorite, against an underdog team, is getting frustrated.
“In that series against the North Stars, they were the initiators, and we took a lot of penalties, which hurt us. As a result, we got away from our team concept, and it was individuals trying to make up the difference.”
What about the physical aspect? The Hawks-North Stars battles were intensely physical, and the Preds have some guys who can bring it, like Weber, Suter and Bouillon.
“Last year, the Hawks faced some pretty physical teams in the Flames and Canucks, and they were successful. What they’re facing this year is no bigger.
“The mindset they have, and the one they have to have, is that they have to go to the front of the net. That’s where most of the goals are scored in playoff games.
“When the Hawks did that, they had success: we saw, for example, how they frustrated Roberto Luongo in that series. So that’s what they have to do again, and consistently, this year.”
You always talk about ‘keys to a game’ in your radio broadcasts. What are the ‘keys to the series’ against Nashville?
“The Predators play a strict team game. We may see some 1-0, 2-1 contests. Skill being what it is, being able to work as hard, or harder, than they do, is going to be critical. And not creating turnovers, because Nashville knows how to take advantage of those.
“I would say the keys to the series are patience, special teams, and goaltending.
“One, be patient—let your skill make a difference. The Hawks have a higher overall skill level and higher overall scoring ability. So they have to trust that skill and ability.
“Two, special teams, as we know are always important, especially in the playoffs. The Hawks have some definite advantages there, including their ability to score in shorthanded situations.
“Three, goaltending. Rinne against Niemi is an interesting matchup, because they’re both unproven commodities. But that’s the million dollar question for a lot of teams this year.”
What are your thoughts on other playoff matchups in the West?
“Phoenix and Detroit are pretty interesting. I went to school at the University Of North Dakota with (Coyotes Coach) Dave Tippett. And he’s always had a knack for being successful. So it’ll be fun to watch.”
As Troy Murray stepped to center ice on his Heritage Night, dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff taken by Jonathan Toews, and shook Toews’ hand, it was the passing of the torch between brothers in a warrior tribe.
The hockey world watches the rise of the Blackhawks, some with excitement, others with skepticism.
Troy Murray watches them—like a hawk. The metaphor is truly apt, for he holds them to the lofty standards he set for himself.