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Six Questions With Murphy

by Melody Huskey / Los Angeles Kings caught up with Michael Murphy, former Los Angeles Kings right wing and coach and current Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for the NHL.

Mike Murphy represented the Kings at the 1980 All-Star Game, held in Detroit.

Murphy joined the Kings on November 30, 1973 in a trade with the NY Rangers that brought Murphy, Sheldon Kannegiesser and Tom Williams to Los Angeles in exchange for Gilles Marcotte and Real Lemieux. After 10 seasons with the Kings, Murphy retired and was immediately named “Special Assistant” to then general manager George Maguire. On Jan. 30, 1984, he assumed the duties of assistant coach (Kings All-Time Coaches) when owner Jerry Buss restructured the front office.

Murphy assumed the title of head coach (Coaching History) on Jan 10, 1987, following the NHL’s expulsion of Pat Quinn, becoming only the second person ever to rise to the position of head coach after being both player and captain of the Kings. (The other was Bob Pulford). Murphy closed out the 1986-87 season with a 13-21-4 mark, but after a 7-16-4 record to start the 1987-88 season, Murphy was relieved of his duties on Dec. 5, 1987, replaced on an interim basis by GM Rogie Vachon before Robbie Ftorek took over. Describe the transition from player to coach.

Murphy: The transition is never easy, because many of the players that you are going to coach are your friends and former teammates.  Suddenly you have to be the person that draws the line in the sand, the person that makes decisions on their playing time and ultimately, a lot of times, that playing time can dictate their future. So there are very hard decisions that need to be made when you go from player to coach, decisions that you don’t realize when you first start to coach. Those decisions can be very disruptive to a friend or former teammate’s career. What is your favorite moment from your time with the Kings, as either player or coach?

Murphy: There are a couple of them.  In the Miracle on Manchester when the Kings ended up beating the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, that was great. They were the Stanley Cup Champions, a top team with Gretzky, Messier, all of these great players and we ended up beating them.  That series we won the fifth game in Edmonton was one of the highlights of my career with the Kings.

Also going back to, I can’t remember the exact year but I want to say 1974, we beat Montreal before the All Star Game to take over first place in the league.  It was in Montreal and we beat them 6-3, which was this monumental accomplishment because the lowly LA Kings had suddenly risen to the point where we were ahead of the Montreal Canadiens.  And Montreal during the 70’s was arguable the greatest team ever.  So that was a huge moment for me and I remember it clearly.

I think a third moment would be the sixth game of the Boston-LA series in 1975 when we upset the Bruins in Game Six in overtime when Butch Goring scored.  So we went back for Game Seven against the Bruins, who were at that time one of the main forces in the league.  Those three moments have memories for me of how much fun those games were for me and how much I identify with those times. If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

Murphy: I think if I could change one thing I would have tried to be more committed and in better physical shape.  I would train harder, worked harder on rehabilitating my injuries because chronic injuries ended up being the downfall for me in the long run.  Bad shoulders and bad knees ended up making the game very tough when I got into my thirties. Describe your time on the Kings in one sentence?

Murphy: Unbelievable learning experience mixed with unbelievable fun. You were with the Kings from early on in the team’s existence – how have you seen the team change in the time since then?

Murphy: Well I have seen some obvious changes with the colors of the uniforms and the logo and the different arena where they play.  What has not changed is the great group of solid hockey fans in Southern California that support and love the Kings, even with the changes.  I think it would be so neat to see the Kings succeed and win a Stanley Cup because it would do just a tremendous amount for the Southern California market and the Kings franchise.  They have been hard working and very close in a number of years, so that would be nice to see. What does your current position with the NHL entail?

Murphy: I am Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations with the NHL.  The simple sentence is that we caretake the game.  We manage all of the games and how they are played.  We hold officials accountable, we hold players accountable for their behavior and if they cross the lines of the rules, that is when we have to step in.  But just generally we are the quality control, the caretakers and the watchdogs for the league, the games, the players, the owners and the fans.

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