Shawville, Quebec. A one-stoplight town approximately an hour north-west of Ottawa. Population? 1,674. Pride? Unmeasurable.
Growing up Ottawa Senators’ General Manager Bryan Murray’s family made up approximately 1% of the small community’s population. One of 10 children – five girls and five boys – sports were interwoven into the daily fabric of their lives.
The influence of the community, the sports in the community and the people I associated with and obviously my family had a great deal to do with, I hope, the way I turned out to be the right way.
Bryan was a coach long before he was given the title. The third oldest, he quickly became a leader helping to look after his siblings.
Already a role-model within his family and beyond his years, he was only a teenager when he assumed his first official responsibility behind the bench. He learned early on how to unify a group of players; rally them. It was in these early years that his lifelong commitment to coaching and building communities began.
After attending MacDonald College at McGill University, his passion for sports led him back to his hometown. He joined the Phys. Ed. Department at Pontiac High School where his natural ability as a leader swelled.
It wasn’t long before the Western Hockey League went knocking on Bryan’s door. His ability to bring out the best in his players was recognized. What started out as just a one year gig turned into a 30+ year career.
In the 1981-82 he got called up: he would take over the head coach position from Roger Crozier. In the seven seasons he was with the Washington Capitals he led the team to the playoffs every year, teaching, leading and inspiring his players, colleagues and those within his community.
For the next 25 years Bryan, his wife Geri and their two daughters moved cities across the US carrying the values of community involvement everywhere before coming back home in 2003. It didn’t matter the return address on their envelope, one thing remained the same: a connection to their community.
An honour few get to realize: coaching in their hometown
Murray is back in the community where it all started. Back to where his love of teaching, leading and fostering started out. Back to where his roots were planted and his career grew out of a love of sport and desire to give back.
Being able to come back to Ottawa to have the opportunity to coach here and then become the manager was a great opportunity for me. My connection was very strong to the Valley and to Ottawa.
Building strong communities
Sport helps build communities through social inclusion and a sense of connection; through shared experiences and shared achievements. Bryan is the mastermind of building these communities.
He has always wanted people to be proud of the teams he has led both on and off the ice. Over the years Bryan has drafted and developed character players while encouraging them to get involved and give back to their communities.
Because he is that type of person.
You don’t have to dig deep before seeing many of the current Ottawa Senators players are cut from the same cloth as he. Chris Neil. Kyle Turris. Erik Karlsson. Curtis Lazar. All players – just to name a few – who have built trust within their communities, fight for what they believe in and give back tirelessly.
Built on his culture of character and involvement is what has allowed the Ottawa Senators Foundation – the charitable arm of the Club – to invest more than $100 million back into the community over the years. He has developed players that members of the community can be proud of, which is reflected in the more than 1,000 community appearances made by players, coaches and the team’s mascot each year.
Bryan is humble about his career. He doesn’t talk about winning the Jack Adams Award or being named NHL Executive of the Year. What he does talk about is being in a position to add a voice.
I encourage our players to be participants in the community. I think it’s very important the position we have and the role we can have in the community is to create influence.
Bryan has been a long time advocate for hockey’s most important fight: Hockey Fights Cancer™. He has championed the cause since the League’s inception of the program in 1998.
When he was diagnosed in 2014 with stage 4 colon cancer he did what only he knew best: to use his voice to educate others on the benefits of having their colon checked. He went public with his story and made an appeal to the public in an interview with TSN’s Michael Farber.
Bryan wants to be part of the solution. He knows that raising awareness on the issue is the first step in finding a cure. He is using his voice and fighting now to find a cure so his granddaughters never have to.
Hero: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
This definition exemplifies Bryan Murray. Not only has he guided, inspired and empowered the players and the teams he has led to achieve their full potential, he has built strong communities. Surrounding the team with good people has resonated into the community.
Each year United Way Ottawa honours extraordinary heroes. Recognized are those who work tirelessly, passionately and collaboratively to make their community a better place in which to live, work and raise a family. They pay tribute to those who make a real difference in their community.
Shawville has yet another reason to be proud of this year: Bryan will receive United Way’s highest honour. On May 28 he will be presented with the Community Builder of the Year award for the values of community involvement he instills on the Senators team, as well as raising awareness for testing for colon cancer.
Hero: Bryan Murray.
I have a special opportunity for It’s All About Me readers: an opportunity to see Bryan Murray honoured at United Way Ottawa’s Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala and celebrate the many other amazing people who make Ottawa such a great place to live.
Interested in joining me?
The gala is taking place at the Shaw Centre on the evening of May 28 and I have two pairs of tickets to give away. It’s an incredibly special that promises to leave you inspired. Just leave a comment below. I’ll pick two names at random at noon on May 26.