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Murray learned a lot as player with Seals

by Evan Weiner
Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray -- like all NHL coaches -- always is looking for ways to motivate his team. Murray has been around the NHL for nearly four decades as a player, assistant coach and head coach, so he probably has seen, heard and used every motivational tool in the book. He played for Charles O. Finley's California Golden Seals in 1972-73 and 1973-74, but his first experience with Finley was as a 20-year-old rookie who was drafted by the Golden Seals in the seventh round (No. 88) in the 1970 Entry Draft.
Murray attended his first pro camp that September, and it was an eye opener for the defenseman who had spent the prior three seasons playing for the Ontario Hockey Association's Ottawa 67's.
"I can remember my first year in 1970 going to training camp in Oshawa, Ont., and after an exhibition game him walking into the dressing room and telling everybody to go down to this store and you are going to be able to pick up a piece of luggage compliments of a great effort tonight," said Murray of the first motivational tool he learned as a pro from Finley. "He was good that way. Maybe a little bit ahead of his time."
Finley bought the Seals prior to the 1970-71 season and made changes almost immediately. The team's name was changed from the Oakland Seals to the California Golden Seals, the team's colors became "Kelly green, California gold and 'polar bear' white," which matched Finley's Oakland A's Major League Baseball team's colors -- except the white was known as "wedding gown white" in baseball circles. Finley also broke hockey tradition by allowing Seals players to wear green and gold skates rather than black skates.
The next season, Finley changed the skate color again -- this time the Golden Seals players wore white skates.
Murray was sent to the American Hockey League's Providence Reds in 1970-71 and played for two AHL teams in 1971-72, the Baltimore Clippers and the Boston Braves along with the Central League's Oklahoma City Blazers. In 1972-73, Murray split the season between the CHL's Salt Lake City Golden Eagles and the Golden Seals. It was during his brief stint California in 1972-73 that he learned an even more radical motivational tool, one that he probably never used during his days coaching in Washington, Philadelphia, Florida or Los Angeles.
"There was a lot of changes in coaches there at that time, a lot of management changes," said Murray of his first NHL season. "In fact, I can remember one time we were playing in Minnesota and we had a layover for about seven or eight days without games and there was a coaching change in the middle of that break (Gerry Young was fired and replaced with Fred Glover) and Charley was there holding court with all of the players in a conference room and he got through introducing the new coach and the reasons why he was making a change, and he said to us, 'Is there anything I can do as the owner of the team that will help you guys to play better in the second half?'
"One of the players, Stan Gilbertson, was sitting in the front row and he throws his hand up in the air and Charley says, 'Yes, Mr. Gilbertson, what is it that I can do to help this team out?'
"He says, 'Mr. Finley, I think we should fly first class the rest of the year.' He said, 'Mr. Gilbertson, from now on you will fly first class the rest of the year.' So here we are 22 guys sitting in these 747s coast to coast, flying first class and enjoying all of the amenities that go along with being a first-class passenger. It didn't make us any better. We were out of the playoffs by Christmas-time. We played all of the road games at the start of the year, we had a great schedule at the end of the year. But it didn't mean a thing. We flew first class."
The California Golden Seals went 13-55-10 that season and finished with 36 points, the fewest in the NHL.
Murray remembered the color scheme and went along with Finley's idea of being branded with the very successful Oakland A's.
"We were well-decorated," he said. "There was no question about that. We just followed our leader around and tried to do what we were told to do and we looked very good because of that. We had all of the flashy colors and all of the accessories that go along with it. There was always something that seemed to be going on, maybe a little bit of a sideshow.
"I think he seemed to be great for sports. As far as being a player in the organization, we got treated very well. The one thing that really happened to the Oakland Seals, unfortunately, was the WHA. A lot of guys left over contract disputes with Charley. I think it ended up being a very small amount of money, but there was a good team there and he was a good owner; all the stories I can remember was good stuff."

"I don't think we felt good about (wearing the white skates), I think we always felt like a little bit of a pansy; maybe the only thing that helped out was that the Oakland A's were playing World Series ball and championship ball at that time and they had the white cleats on. Maybe it helped in our minds a little bit seeing them out there."
-- Terry Murray

Murray missed the green and gold skates, but he did wear the white skates in 1972-73.
"Well, the white skates, they got heavier every week, too," said Murray. "It was just shoe polish and the trainers had to make sure they were white every game and they just got the old white polish out with the applicator and kept piling it out. So it was an extra five pounds by the middle of the season.
"I don't think we felt good about (wearing the skates), I think we always felt like a little bit of a pansy; maybe the only thing that helped out was that the Oakland A's were playing World Series ball and championship ball at that time and they had the white cleats on. Maybe it helped in our minds a little bit seeing them out there."
Like many others who played for the Seals at that time, Murray kept the white skates. Murray played nine games for California in 1974-75 in the post Finley-era. The NHL ran the team for a while and got rid of the green, gold and white uniforms, replacing them with "pacific blue, gold and white" uniforms. The white skates also were jettisoned. After the 1975-76 season, new owners Mel Swig and George Gund moved the franchise to Cleveland. Murray ended up with Philadelphia and started his coaching career in Washington as an assistant in 1983-84 under his brother Bryan. He became an NHL head coach with the Caps in 1989-90, replacing his fired brother.

Bryan had no grudges. He hired Terry to coach the Florida Panthers in 1998-99.

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