In some ways, it's hard to believe Ryan Murray has already been with the Blue Jackets for seven seasons now.
At just age 26, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft has developed into an excellent defenseman at both ends of the ice. Despite injury issues, he seems to have a lot of good hockey left in him, as evidenced by last year's impressive season when he had 29 points and a plus-20 rating in 56 games as well as this year's 2-7-9 line in 27 games that featured some excellent hockey upon his return from a back injury in March.
BlueJackets.com caught up with Murray, who is spending the coronavirus pause in Regina Beach, Saskatchewan, not far from his hometown of Regina, the province's capital. Murray discusses his home, his thoughts on "The Last Dance" and what he's learned throughout his NHL career.
Saskatchewan is an area not a lot of people here in Ohio know a lot about. I wanted to give you a chance to brag about where you're from, so what's the area like?
Under normal circumstances, it's a great place. It's nice -- decent golf courses around, lots of sun in the summer, really good people. It's a small, tight-knit community where everyone kind of knows everyone, and it's the same thing in the small towns (around Regina). There's a lot of lakes around, and it's fun here during the summer. Right now, obviously everyone has been tied down in their homes and is still quarantining and all that.
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When people think of Saskatchewan they probably don't think of beaches, but Canada has its beautiful cottage country in places like Ontario. Is it the same atmosphere where you are right now?
The city (of Regina) is basically in the middle of a field. There's really nothing in the city, but you go 45 minutes in a couple of different directions and there are a few different lakes. You usually know somebody at each of the lakes around, so that's kind of fun.
The million-dollar question with everyone is how they're filling their time. Everybody is in the same boat as far as staying at home, so what have you been up to as this has gone on?
Just trying to stay busy. Lots of mornings you wake up and you don't really have so much to do. I'm trying to read books, watch some of the documentaries coming out on Netflix -- there's been some really good stuff there. Other than that, nothing too crazy. Just hanging out and trying to keep in shape and just hanging out like everyone else, I guess.
Has anything in particular with the books or the documentaries stuck out that you've enjoyed?
I was watching the Michael Jordan documentary. I think most people have been watching that. I watched "Waco." "Waco" was unreal. I finished that in a couple of days. After I was watching the Jordan documentary, I bought Phil Jackson's book "Eleven Rings" and I finished that too. That was a great book. I'm on that basketball train a little bit, I guess.
Those guys (with the Bulls) did it at a high level for such a long time, and athletes like you are always looking for ways to get better. Are there lessons you can take from either the documentary or the book to help you?
Phil Jackson went to so many NBA Finals and when you read the book, it's like every season, all the talk was about winning championships. That's all they cared about. That was the only thing that mattered. It's kind of cool because you go into every season and it's like if they lost in the second round or the third round or the Finals, whatever it is, those guys were devastated every single time. So they built this team over how many years, but it was all about winning and going all the way. I think that's a great focus to have. Some people might be happy with having a little bit of success and say, 'OK, we can build off that,' or whatever, but every time they lost it was just unacceptable. I think it's pretty cool, the level they set for themselves and he set for all of his teams.
It's interesting the way that he coached and interesting how he sees basketball as a game of human nature and relationships and egos and everything else. The reason I bought (the book) was because in that documentary, Dennis Rodman wants to go to Vegas for two days in the middle of the season, and Phil Jackson is like, 'Well, can he get it done in two days?' I was like, 'All right, I have to see what this guy is about.' I couldn't imagine any coach saying that, so I was like, 'I have to see what this guy is doing,' because that would be an emphatic no from 99 percent of coaches. I just thought that was really interesting.
You also got a dog, an Australian shepherd named Jake, this season. Has it been nice to have him with you of late? It seems like every CBJ player has a dog these days, but how's it been to have him around during the pause?
Jake has been really good. He's been learning to swim. He loves the lake like and he's running around all the time. I think he's enjoyed it. It's nice when you have someone to hang out with all the time. It's nice to have your dog - you can go work out, you can go for runs with him, whatever else. It's been really nice.
The last time we talked to you was right when you came back, and that was unfortunately a week or so before the pause. But for you, you had the chance to play a little bit there; what did that do for you to get back out there and get some action in, and do you feel like you can build on that when you get back?
Yeah, I thought it was good to come back and play some games. I felt pretty good in those games. Looking forward to getting back out there again. I think when you look at our season and our team, we were right there in a playoff position, and with all the injuries that we have, I think this was a good time for a lot of guys including myself to take a step back and let yourself heal up and get back to 100 percent or as close as we can do that and get rolling again. I think it was good for myself and a couple of guys who have been going through some tough times. That's one positive we can take out of this situation.
The last time we talked to you as well, you mentioned approaching your back issues in a different way and there's some things you can do to help yourself stay healthy. Have you kept up with that and do you feel pretty good at this point?
I've been feeling good. I've been doing my exercises every day. I took some rest and let everything settle down and relaxed for a bit, and now I've been cranking it up again with the talk about hopefully reopening some stuff and get rolling again. We'll see what they come up with with that, but it's been a good rest and a good reset mentally and physically. When is the last time that everyone has kind of been forced to slow down? Obviously there's been some bad things in this situation, but you can see some positives too.
One thing that is interesting to me, you've been in this league for a while now, but at the same time, you're still just 26 years old. You've had to deal with a lot of ups and downs. What are some of the things you've learned to help you stay on an even keel and handle everything that's been thrown at you?
There's a lot of stuff. Professional sports, you have the carrot dangling in front of you -- you have contracts, you have money, you have expectations and all these things surrounding the game. The more you can stay focused on the game, the better off everything else usually is. I think it's learning to manage all that stuff and caring about the right things and using your energy and your mental focus to point it in the right direction. I think that's life in general where you're just learning to manage that because otherwise you build up stress, you build uncertainty, anxiety about certain things. In anyone's pro career, it's never gonna be perfect. Things aren't going to work out exactly the way you want them to. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's just about how you handle that.