OTTAWA -- "A Night With Bryan," an appreciation of the 34-year NHL career of former Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray, raised more than $100,000 Wednesday for The Ottawa Hospital, where the 73-year-old has been receiving treatments for colon cancer.
One of the highlights of the event, held at Canadian Tire Center, was a live auction that included items such as a trip on the Senators' charter aircraft. Three strawberry and rhubarb pies baked by Murray's sister, Darlene, who used the Murray family recipe, fetched $2,000 each.
Proceeds from the $350-per-ticket event will go toward a molecular oncology diagnostics lab.
Murray said the opportunity to use his name to raise money for the hospital was important to him.
"It means a great deal," said Murray, who stepped down as Senators GM in April and is a senior adviser to successor Pierre Dorion. "Being from the area, being able to include my brothers and sisters (he has nine siblings) and their spouses as well, it's a real honor for me to be recognized in this way.
"(The hospital) is a very important place to me. I've been treated so well by the doctors and nurses. I go every other week pretty much for chemo. It's not just Bryan Murray. I look around, I talk to a lot of patients, I spend a lot of time there. The treatment has been outstanding. When they ask me to help in a little way to give back, that's what I'm trying to do. It's not about anything other than if we can help the foundation in Ottawa who really do a good job for other people coming down the line, that's what I'd like to do.
"I talked about going to other, bigger cancer centers at one time, but I don't know if I could be looked after better with more compassionate people."
The evening included dinner on the floor of the Canadian Tire Centre, silent and live auctions and a "hot stove" session with Murray and friends, colleagues and players he worked with, including Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, Dorion and former Senators players Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly.
Former Columbus Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean, who was hired by Murray to work with the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and the Detroit Red Wings, was also on hand.
MacLean remembered when he met Murray. MacLean was playing junior hockey in Ontario for the Brockville Braves, a Tier II team, and Murray was the coach of the Pembroke Lumber Kings. Murray was the coach of an all-star team of which MacLean was a member.
"It was 43 years ago. I was barely a kid playing junior, like 10 or something," MacLean said. "I ended up playing a game for him. I remember sitting in the dressing room as a kid saying, 'I learned more tonight between periods than I learned the last two years in Brockville.' I'm glad the Braves coaches aren't listening to this.
It was an unbelievable honor to work for 10 years with Bryan Murray in the National Hockey League. I wouldn't have been in the NHL if it wasn't for Bryan Murray. There's absolutely no doubt about that.
"One of the greatest lessons I got from Bryan Murray was he said, 'You know, Doug, you don't have to be hated to be a coach in the National Hockey League. You can be tough on your players. You can be fair with your players, but you don't have to be hated. I think that was a great lesson for a young coach."
Murray credited Bob Pugh, the athletic director at McGill University's Macdonald College who gave Murray his first coaching job, for his coaching philosophy.
"The one lesson Bob taught me and I tried to carry around with me, he showed me that you can coach, make demands, get performance while treating players with respect, which he always did when I was around," Murray said, "and I always tried to do it with the people I was associated with."
Murray coached Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, a moment Murray said was a highlight for him because of the way the city got behind the Senators, who lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
"He just gave you a feeling no matter how good or bad the team was playing, you could win every game," Alfredsson said. "You just had that feeling. You go back to Bryan yelling at the referees all the time, I think there was a bigger plan behind that. He always had the players' backs.
"Looking back, that's probably the biggest thing why our team did so well was because he was like the big father figure and no matter what happened, during the game, no matter what was happening, he was backing you up and that was very powerful."
Murray was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in June 2014.
"Right now I feel pretty good," he said. "There are days that aren't so sweet, but other than that for the most part I feel strong, I feel good. My wife keeps me active now so that's a good thing. I've got lots of household chores to do."