Monday, December 19, 2011


Mike Murphy Enjoys the Coffee!

Mike Murphy dressed for the recent game between his Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has been rehearsing, so to speak, for his chance to play in the National Hockey League for some time.

Following his stellar OHL career with the Belleville Bulls, he was drafted by the Hurricanes, and signed a three year, entry-level contract. He backstopped the Bulls to several successful seasons, including a trip to the Memorial Cup.

His accomplishments with the Bulls: Rookie All Star, First team All Star in 2008, OHL Goaltender of the Year in 2008 and 2009, and Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year in 2009.

According to the charts and expectations of scouts today, Murphy is relatively tiny. He stands five feet, eleven inches, and tips the scales at about 180 pounds. That does not seem to bother the brass with the Hurricanes. Following the 2009 season, he attended his second conditioning camp for the ‘Canes.

He worked under the watchful eye of Tom Barrasso, who is credited with some of the success experienced by the ‘Canes number one netminder, Cam Ward. At that time, he appreciated Barrasso’s influence: “I think he understands my style. He’s been in the NHL a long time, and he’s seen a lot of styles. He improved my game from last camp when he told me I played like Marc-Andre Fleury did early on: using a lot of energy, not in position as much.

Murphy broke into junior hockey with the Kingston Township Voyageurs. He got the call from the Belleville Bulls in 2005, and finished his OHL career with the Bulls in 2009. His first professional assignment was with the Albany River Rats.

He has appeared in 39 games this year with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League, winning 21 and losing 11. He has a very respectable 2.57 goals against average this year at the AHL level. One must always keep in mind that “Murph” has yet to celebrate his 23rd birthday, and most goaltenders need the minor league experience before heading to “The Show”.

Murphy appeared in two NHL games during his recent “call up”. Get this: he was charged with the loss in one game, and yet he saved every shot, and has a perfect save percentage from the game. How does that work? The opposition potted an empty net goal, and he was the goalie of record at the time.

The Hurricanes also have two other fine netminders in the wings along with Murphy: Brian Boucher, and Justin Peters. Boucher is currently injured, and that helped set up the arrival of Murphy to the NHL. After the game, I spoke with Murphy in the Hurricanes dressing room. There was a sombre atmosphere, as the Leafs had won by a goal on a very fortuitous rebound. All hockey bags were packed and ready to go less than ten minutes after the game.

“It is really exciting for me to be here,” he told me. “It is great to play in the American Hockey League, but this is part of the dream.” Just as he was ready to leave the room, Bryan Allen strode by. Allen began his junior career with the Ernestown Jets. He has played more than 500 games in the NHL with the Canucks, Panthers, and the Canes. I noted that both Murphy and Allen were from the Napanee area. Murphy added: “All of the guys have been great. They have been helpful in many ways since I got the call”.

Murphy was returned to Charlotte after the game. I am sure he realizes that there is plenty of the “call up, send down” stuff before one becomes entrenched at the NHL level. All part of paying the dues. And he is ready to step up when required.

James Hurst
December 19, 2011

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