He is 70 years old and a cheerful, delightful fellow with plenty of colourful stories to tell from a lifetime in amateur hockey. And besides that, good guy Charly Murray still has much to offer in terms of time, experience, knowledge and a genuine love for the game, especially at the under 18, junior and college levels.
Now helping out with his hometown Sault College Cougars — and part of their 2019 American Collegiate Hockey Association national championship team — Murray has spent parts of six decades in the game in coaching and player personnel roles.
Known for having a keen eye for identifying talent and for his loyalty and promotion of players that he has scouted and recruited, Murray has also performed a key role in the success of a number of Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League teams over the years.
His lengthy NOJHL gigs have included working for the Soo Thunderbirds, Soo Eagles, Blind River Beavers, Cochrane Crunch and the erstwhile Northern Michigan Black Bears and Elliot Lake Bobcats.
To be sure, there are few in the junior game with the overall scouting/player advancement pedigree that Murray has, having helped send dozens of players on to higher levels of hockey over the years, in particular the American college ranks.
It is worth noting that most of the coaching and scouting work that Murray — who is a retired steelworker — has done over the years has been on a voluntary basis or for very little renumeration. And there have been many seasons when Murray would spend winter nights in cold rinks with renumeration being in the form of a team jacket and hat.
“I never, ever did this for the money,” the affable Murray relayed on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show that airs on local radio station Eagle 95.1. “It has always been about the kids for me … and it always will be.”
With countless friendships and contacts having been made over the years, Murray remains a story-telling, joke-cracking icon of sorts throughout northern Ontario and Northern Michigan. Teams gravitate towards him because of his knowledge and insight — but it is often Murray himself reaching out to teams about players who range from exceptional to ones who may be flying under the radar.
“I think any young man who wants to play and who has a passion for the game at least deserves an opportunity to be looked at by a coach or a team,” Murray said firmly. “Too many teams only want to hear about the star players.”
Showing few signs of slowing down with age, Murray — who is affectionately known to his hockey friends as the “Old Goat” — remains in touch with the game either by in-person contact or by scouting players and teams via TV and video.
Sharp as a tack and with a memory that is startling, Murray said he is enjoying working with manager Mark Hebert and head coach Mike Hall and staff with the Sault College men’s team. He also keenly follows the NOJHL and the Superior International Jr. Hockey League — and one gets the impression that he would be open to working for a junior team while retaining his role at Sault College.
Married to his wife, Debbie, for 50 years and a father, grand father and great grand father, Murray loves to talk about his family.
“I am not sure how and why Debbie has put up with me for all of these years,” Murray is fond of saying, with his trademark chuckle. “I guess she just got used to me being around.”
Always but a phone call or a message away for a chat about hockey — be it past or present times — Murray remains a scout of old school values who is very much in tune with today’s game.
“I have been in and around hockey my whole life and I have no plans of giving up my involvement,” Murray noted. “Debbie has always been supportive of what I do … she knows how passionate I am about the game and the kids and the good people who are involved.”
(photo by Bob Davies)