Once a scout always a scout

February 4, 2023

He has scouted for multiple teams in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League for renumeration that was no more than a hat, a jacket and a cold beer or two after a given game. He has old school values and roots that have grown to embrace today’s game. Now in his early 70s, the fire for the game stills burns deep within Charly Murray as the tireless head scout and recruiter for the Sault College Cougars men’s hockey team.

While he retains good memories of the decades spent in cold rinks scouting for NOJHL teams such as the Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles and most especially the Blind River Beavers and erstwhile Northern Michigan Black Bears, Murray’s firm focus these days is on the men’s team at Sault College, which competes within the Division 2 ranks of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

The 2022-2023 edition of the Cougars has been a topsy turvy adventure. The men have often had to play with a shortened lineup due to injuries but head coach Mike Hall and the Cougars have stayed within range of the .500 mark through 22 games while mostly playing the top schools of the ACHA.

As for Murray, who personally recruited the majority of the players on the ’22-23 Cougars squad, he is always working ahead to the next season. He has a book on players in the NOJHL who are potential recruits. And he has old friend Don Smith up in Thunder Bay scouting the Superior International Jr. Hockey League for potential recruits.

“The goal is get us back to championship contender status,” Murray relayed on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show Podcast. “We won at the D3 level and now our aim is to be among the very best in D2.”

To be sure, Murray sees the ’22-23 edition of the Cougars as a building block towards next season and beyond with so many current student athletes having considerable eligibility remaining. For now, he likes the competitive level of the current roster and the way the players have overcome so many weekends on the road with a shortened lineup.

While Murray took the time to name every player on the Sault College roster, he particularly noted the contributions of the Cougars explosive first line of captain Caleb Wood, Gregory Trudeau-Paquet and Ethan Esposito as well as goalie Cedric Joubert. Also receiving a special mention is gritty defenseman Keaston Blais, who has gone from a part-time player to a valuable presence on the Cougars depleted blue line.

Sault College Cougars head scout and recruiter Charly Murray. (photo by Bob Davies)

“We have a great group here at Sault College,” praised Murray. “We have a strong program with an excellent coaching staff led by Mike (Hall.) We are in a good place with great support from our school and athletic staff.”

To be sure, the past three years have been trying times for the Cougars, though not through the fault of anyone associated with the Sault College’s men’s program. Rather, government shutdowns related to Covid wreaked havoc on the hockey program.

This has been more of a back to normal season for the Sault College men, who first entered the ACHA for the 2018-2019 season at the Division 3 level and won the national championship. Then as the Cougars were poised to win an another national title, the early onset of Covid-19 ended the 2019-2020 season just before the start of the playoffs. And with the Canada-United States border closed to travel, the 2020-2021 season was wiped out for Sault College. Then came a return to play for 2021-2022 but with the American schools reluctant to come this way, the Cougars season was restricted to 15 road games.

As for this 2022-2023 season, Sault College– which is the only Canadian school in the entire ACHA men’s program — again began with an all road games schedule only to recently finally play their first home games in three years.

There is still plenty of activity on the game slate for this season. Meanwhile, Murray as the recruiter is already planning ahead for the 2023-2024 campaign with a June 3-4 Spring Skate weekend that is open to all players interested in attending Sault College and playing for the Cougars next season. (Any player interested in taking part in the June 3-4 Spring Skate can contact Murray via 705-206-2051.)

Chase Muswagon

One player who is already committed to the June 3-4 Spring Skate is prize defenseman Chase Muswagon. The 22-year old Muswagon was a top recruit by Murray from the Dryden Ice Dogs of the SIJHL to attend Sault College last fall and enrol in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation program. But after playing in four games and potting three points to begin the ’22-23 season, Muswagon suffered a severe concussion and eventually left school to return home to The Pas, Manitoba to recuperate

Muswagon has since been declared healthy and he told Hockey News North that he has already signed up for the Spring Skate and that he plans to return to Sault College in the fall to resume school and hockey.

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