He grew up in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan; not exactly a farmer but close enough to the wheat fields to have a firm grip of his western roots.
In the words of Garth Murray, he grew up a “city boy with prairie roots.”
And one hoping to now stick it out in Margaritaville.
The 25-year-old forward, claimed Nov. 13 off re-entry waivers from the Canadiens, is hoping to find himself a home with the Panthers after spending the past two seasons in-and-out of the lineup in Montreal.
For Murray, landing in South Florida has afforded him a new chance.
“This is a huge chance for me,” said the 25-year-old forward. “I feel rejuvenated. I’m focused more than I ever have been. I think I can find a role here.”
With center Brett McLean out for several weeks with a broken hand and GM and coach Jacques Martin hoping to add a physical dimension up front, Murray got the call.
“He’s the kind of player who’s gritty, finishes his checks, goes to the net and can kill penalties,” Martin said. “He’s a quality, character guy. He’s the kind of individual who gives you some momentum.
“When you look at our roster – with McLean out probably six weeks and when you look at the fact we had a spot to fill at the start of the season – we felt (Murray) would bring some toughness to our hockey club.”Stephen Weiss
, who roomed with Murray when winning a silver medal with Team Canada in the 2002 World Junior Championships, echoed Martin’s assessment of Murray.
“When I heard we had got him I was probably the most excited guy in the room,” Weiss said. “That’s a guy you know what he’ll bring every night. He’s going to leave it all out there. He’s going to compete hard, and if he needs to stick up for a teammate he’ll do that, too.”
The 6-2, 209-pound Murray doesn’t mind getting involved in the action. He racked up 183 penalty minutes in the Western Hockey League in 2000-01 with his hometown Regina Pats.
Growing up in Regina, Murray said his father, Ray, built an outdoor rink in their backyard for his three sons. But it wasn’t until Murray was seven that he decided he wanted to become more involved in hockey.
“I was on a playground listening to some kids talking about playing and about the fun they had and I went home and told my dad I wanted to play,” Murray said. “From there I just started playing.”
Drafted in the third round (79th overall) of the 2001 Entry Draft by the Rangers, Murray played 20 games with the Rangers in 2003-04 but spent much of his time playing the for team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Hartford.
Traded to the Canadiens for Marcel Hossa in September of 2005, Murray played 36 games in Montreal in 2005-06 while splitting time with AHL affiliate Hamilton and played 43 games last season with the Canadiens. His season this year got off to a rough start when, ironically, against the Panthers, he took a shot off the right skate from teammate Andrei Markov that broke his ankle.
“It happened at the start of the second period,” said Murray, referring to Markov’s shot. “I played the rest of the game but I kind of thought something might have happened. I had taken a hard shot before and it didn’t break, so I was hoping. But I knew there was more to it when I couldn’t sleep that night and couldn’t walk on it the next day.”
For Murray, the broken ankle was another frustrating episode during his stay in Montreal.
“It was tough in Montreal,” Murray said. “I couldn’t settle in. I was in-and-out of the lineup all last year. Then when you’re in the lineup you feel pressure to do something when you do get in. Plus, it’s Montreal, the center of hockey.
“It was tough to stay positive at times and keep your head in the game. I really didn’t know what to think.”
But after bringing energy to his first games against the Blue Jackets and Rangers, Murray might finally be getting his chance.
“I’m staying positive,” he said. “Just go with the flow and run with it.”
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