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Destined for Coaching

Scott Murray's approach to coaching, from grassroots to NHL, has proven success

by Ben Brown @benbrown04 /

When Capitals goaltending coach Scott Murray was playing goalie at Lake Superior State University, and professionally in the Central Hockey League, he always had the inkling that his hockey career was going to lead him to coaching. After playing six games combined in 2004-05 for the San Angelo Saints in the CHL, and with the Motor City Mechanics of the United Hockey League, Murray decided to hang up the skates to pursue his true calling.

"I knew that I had a passion to coach for sure," Murray said. "I had done it when I was playing. When you don't make many saves while you're playing, you figure out how to teach players to make saves. So I knew I wanted to get into goalie coaching when I stopped playing. That's part of the reason I was okay to stop playing."

Murray's climb to the top of the goaltending coach profession began at the grassroots level. Immediately after his retirement as a player, he started a goalie school for seven-year-olds in Sudbury, Ontario in 2005. Through his youth hockey coaching, Murray eventually met Mark Burgess, who was the owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Sudbury Wolves; Burgess's son also played on one of Murray's teams. Years later in 2009 when the Wolves were looking for a new goaltending coach, Burgess knew just the man for the job.

Murray ended up coaching and developing Sudbury's goalies for four years before getting an opportunity with the Capitals' organization and the Hershey Bears. After coaching the Bears for one season, Murray's career was somewhat at a cross roads following the 2013-14 season.

The Capitals had moved on from head coach Adam Oates and hired Barry Trotz, who brought highly-regarded goaltending coach Mitch Korn along with him to oversee the entire organization's goalie department. Murray seemed to be caught in the middle of the transition as Korn had a quick 10-day period to figure out if the two of them could develop a relationship.

In order for the two to get to know each other, Korn flew Murray to St. Louis so he could coach at Korn's goalie camp. After a three-day period where the pair roomed together and learned each other's coaching styles, Korn was convinced that Murray was somebody he wanted to keep around.

"Scott's just an awesome human being," Korn said. "He's so personable and he doesn't have a mean-spirited, negative or egotistical bone in his body. It shows because everybody likes him and everybody goes out of their way for him and everybody wants him to succeed."

Murray ended up coaching the Bears for three more years, guiding Hershey's goaltenders to consistently strong seasons. In the 2016-17 season, under Murray's guidance, Vitek Vanecek recorded a career-high of 18 wins and finished second in the AHL with five shutouts, while Pheonix Copley won 11 of his 16 games with Hershey, and finished eighth in the AHL in save percentage (.924). Murray also previously coached Philipp Grubauer, who along with Copley and Justin Peters combined to set a Bears record for team shutouts in a single season with 10. After Murray proved his strong coaching skills at Hershey, the Capitals promoted Murray to take over for Korn as the team's goaltending coach on September 14.

"I never thought about moving up the ladder," Murray said. "My focus was to do the right things day after day. You just hope to do the right things and put a lot of time into it as you go along. Hopefully you add up those good decisions and doing it the right way, you add that up over time and hopefully you get opportunities to earn those breaks."

Murray's climb to the NHL has been full of twists and turns, and he's quick to point out those who have made a lasting impact on his career. From the relationships he's built to the people who personally coached him, Murray is grateful for the help he's received along the way.

"Terry Barbeau's a guy who I had as the goalie coach at Lake Superior State, and he's been an awesome friend since I played for him," Murray said. "We've stayed in touch and he was a guy, early in my career when I was doing minor hockey stuff, who I really leaned on to gain experience in not just coaching, but how to be around a staff and how to be around players. I really learned how to act and do the right things from him.

"And then Mitch Korn, who I can't thank enough. He's been unbelievable, and he is a Hall of Fame goalie coach. To be able to learn and get an opportunity to talk to him and be around him every day, and the way he runs it here has been instrumental to say the least."

Since their meeting in St. Louis three years ago, Murray has been able to learn from Korn, who by all accounts is one of the best goaltending coaches in the history of the sport. Now it's Murray's turn to help Braden Holtby and Grubauer maintain, and perhaps even surpass, their excellent play over the last two seasons.

"I think he really loves the position," Holtby said of Murray. "He likes it because it's such an in-depth position and there's so many different areas to look at. You can tell he likes to teach, and not many people have that teaching gene, and he definitely has it. He's been able to learn from the best through Mitch and how he's had success. He'll bring his own personality with that added knowledge from the experience Mitch has passed on."

In the Capitals' first two weeks of training camp, Murray has already put his passion for hockey on full display, and he's made a strong impression on the entire team, not just the goaltenders. With Korn now in a supervisory role, Murray has made sure the transition has been as seamless as possible because of his strong character and enthusiastic personality.

"The first goal is to build that trust with everybody around me," Murray said. "And then bring a work ethic and passion every day that hopefully allows me to deliver the right message, at the right time, to create consistency in whatever department I'm dealing with at the time."

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