In late August 2018, Senators goaltender Craig Anderson shared photos on Instagram unveiling the artwork on his mask for the 2018-19 season which featured a tribute to the late Bryan Murray. Last week, Anderson continued to honour Ottawa's former long-time general manager and gave the mask to Bryan's wife Geri and their children.
"I think it meant a lot to her and her kids," said Anderson. "Bryan's kids have all reached out and they all seemed genuinely thankful that I had that much respect for their father and that I wanted to do this for their family. I just wanted them to know how much of an impact that he made on me and other people's lives."
Anderson has regularly used his mask and gear as a way to honour loved ones. From family tributes on the back of his mask to his son Jake designing his pads last season, he's been able to find unique ways to take a part of those he admires with him onto the ice each game. His inspiration for the tribute last season was simple: to help keep the memory of a great man alive.
"Special people deserve special credit and Bryan was special," he said. "If he didn't touch so many lives with the way that he handled himself and cared for others the way he did then I don't think we'd be having this conversation."
Murray famously traded for Anderson back in 2011 and since arriving in Ottawa he's gone on to claim the bulk of the franchise's goalie records including wins (192), games played (405) and saves (11,644). But for Anderson, who had played for three other NHL teams and a few stints in the AHL before landing with the Senators, he believes that Murray's influence on him is one of the factors that helped him find his place as a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League.
"The biggest thing that I saw, and you don't see it much in the game of hockey or professional sports, is the heart he showed," shared Anderson. "So much of this business is a business but if he saw you in the hallway, he'd make sure to stop and ask you how you were. It's really easy to see how you're doing on the ice but he'd go out of his way to get to know you as a person."
"That was an eye-opener for me," he continued. "I could tell right away that this man was different from other teams, organizations or managers that I've dealt with in the past. For me, that's Bryan's legacy: beyond the game, he made a positive impact on a lot of people."
Like Bryan's wife Geri, Anderson has also played the support role to a partner battling cancer when his wife Nicholle famously fought and beat the disease during the 2016-17 season. The Sens #1 goalie made the difficult decision to step away from the team for a large part of the regular season that year, but not before an emotional shutout performance in Edmonton in which he dedicated to Nicholle, in order to be there for his wife and kids during her treatment.
"Everything that my family went through in our personal lives and seeing Bryan's battle that he went through, we just had that common bond," Anderson said. "I remember sitting in his office just talking about some of his experiences as Nicholle was going through her treatment. It was that common ground where we could sit down and have a casual conversation about a very real, non-hockey subject that had affected both us."
Now, just as Murray did after his passing in 2017, Anderson's tribute mask is heading back to Shawville, Que., with a prominent display location already picked out: on Geri's mantle next to Bryan's urn.
For Anderson, it brings the tribute to Murray on his mask full circle. It began as a subtle nod to the memory of an incredibly influential man that is now to be enjoyed by his family and friends for years to come.
"He always had a family-first mentality and that includes his hockey family too," said Anderson. "I'm just glad I was able to pay my respects in a way that everyone could enjoy."