BOCA RATON, Fla. - Bryan Murray has devoted almost his entire adult life to hockey. He wants much of the rest of it to be about saving other peoples' lives.
The Ottawa Senators general manager revealed his Stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis in November in the hopes of getting the word out about early detection. His impact is being felt around the NHL and beyond.
Ottawa-based Dr. Robin Boushey told Murray: "Just by doing what you did, we've had 30-year-old men come in. We've caught numerous cases of guys that have early stages of cancer," the 72-year-old recalled.
Nephew Tim Murray, GM of the Buffalo Sabres, got his colonoscopy on Jan. 21. He isn't the only one to do so because of Bryan.
"He is such a recognized face in hockey that his message touched a lot of people," Tim Murray said. "We had waves of mail and text messages expressing the fact that people were able to detect their colon cancer at an early stage after getting tested as a result of Bryan going out publicly.
"Saving one life is huge. How many will he be able to save? Hundreds, thousands? Nobody knows."
Murray, who was honoured Monday night by his colleagues for his career achievements, continues undergoing chemotherapy treatments. His doctor told him he's "not getting any better" but has been cleared to stay active and do his job.
Aside from being GM of an NHL team, the Shawville, Que., native considers spreading awareness about cancer part of his work now. Murray has coached or managed in hockey for more than 40 years but wants awareness to be his legacy and brought up cancer at the dinner in his honour.
"We have high profiles," Murray said of NHL GMs. "So if you can help, whether through a message you make or through your organization to help people, there's so many people affected, so many young people affected. I think we have an obligation to give any advice or any help that we can."
That hits home for Murray when he goes to the hospital and sees young people with children who are suffering from terminal cancer. Even though it's hard on family to hear him talk publicly about the disease, Murray feels he owes it to people.
Nashville Predators GM David Poile said Murray is "serving a higher purpose" by speaking out about the disease.
Former GM Doug MacLean talked to his close friend and mentor when he was diagnosed. Now they talk about the sport they've spent so much time in.
"He said to me a couple of times, 'I'm doing some things now, I'm spending more time with the girls,'" MacLean said. "He's been to Colorado a few times where both his daughters live. He said, 'I'm doing more of those things that I should've done before.' But then it's right back to hockey."
Murray will talk with his wife, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and doctors before deciding whether to return for next season. MacLean would like to see Murray continue along just as he has for the past several months.
"He's been doing it since he was 19, coaching," MacLean said. "It's courageous. He's going to grind. It's his life."
No matter what, Murray will keep promoting early detection.
"It's going to make a big difference," he said. "I think for me that's very important and I hope it is for a lot of people, and I hope throughout the hockey community we share this experience."
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