For long-time followers of the Kings, defenseman Larry Murphy is, well, the one who got away.
Long before he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004, Murphy was an LA King…although his time in the purple and gold was somewhat brief. Yes, he was drafted by the club in the first-round in 1980, and he played the first three full seasons of his NHL career with L.A. But Murphy would go on to play some of his best hockey with the Capitals, Penguins and Red Wings before taking off the skates in 2001.
A three-time All-Star, Murphy won four Stanley Cups – two with Pittsburgh and two with Detroit. He played in more than 1,600 career regular season games and 215 more in the postseason. He finished his stellar career with 1,216 points – tied for 40th most in the NHL.
Now a broadcaster for the Wings and NHL Network, Murphy (who the Kings traded to Washington for Brian Engblom and Ken Houston early in the 1983-84 season) recently answered the following questions for LAKings.com.
Q: Growing up in Canada, how often did you dream of playing in the NHL?
A: It was everyday as long as I can remember. When I was a little boy my older brother played hockey. Hockey was big in the family. I watched Hockey Night in Canada every week, so it was a dream as long as I can remember. It was by far my favorite sport. If we weren’t playing in the backyard on the ice rink, we were out in the road playing it or of course playing on teams in the arena. Summer was just the time you were waiting for the hockey season to start.
Q: Were you always the best player in the leagues you played in?
A: No. I played in Toronto in the league there and got cut from a couple teams and bounced around a little bit. I always loved the game and I always played a lot. That was a big thing. Dad put the rink in the backyard so we skated constantly. For me it was just a progression. I kept playing and kept playing and the next thing you know, I’m playing Junior (hockey) in Peterborough, and then the next thing you know, I’m drafted by the LA Kings! It just kind of happened that way, it was just a progression.
Q: What was it like to make the jump from juniors to the top professional league?
A: It was a dream come true without a doubt. I remember the first training camp. I remember my first game in the NHL. It was a dream. I couldn’t believe it. I finally had made it here. I guess the realization hit me when I finally did it. It seemed like such a way-out goal when you’re a little boy that to finally get there was quite a moment for me.
Q: What do you remember most about your days as a King here in Los Angeles?
A: I was drafted in 1980. At that time there wasn’t NHL Center Ice, there wasn’t the (media) coverage that there is today, so I didn’t really know Los Angeles that well because I never really saw the team play that often. In Canada you always saw Toronto or Montreal or whoever they’re playing in the East. So when I got drafted by LA, I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited I was in the National Hockey League. I had to get a roster to see the guys on the team. I was well aware of the guys like Marcel Dionne, of course, so I came here and it was a great situation. We had a real good team and that really helps for a young player. I was getting lots of opportunities so it just kind of fell into place. It was a tremendous experience. I was disappointed that we didn’t do as well as we should have, but for me, I couldn’t have thought of a better situation for me to get my feet wet in the National Hockey League.
Q: What was the hardest part about playing over 20 years in the NHL?
A: I loved every moment of it. In the end, competing in the games was always great. The rest of it grinds you a little bit, with the travel and being sore all the time and practicing. It was just kind of a grind, but when the puck dropped for the games there was no place I’d rather be. When I retired, I missed it. I definitely missed it. As hard as it gets physically, when the time comes you really miss it.
Q: What were some of your favorite memories as a player?
A: When looking at the Los Angeles days it was playing in the National Hockey League and setting the rookie defenseman scoring record my first season. That’s something that still stands, so I take a tremendous amount of pride in that, and just getting myself established as a NHL player. Besides that, Stanley Cups are what it’s all about. Your name is etched on the Cup, so to me those four Stanley Cup Championships were my greatest moments in the NHL. If you don’t get a chance to do it once in your career, you’re definitely missing out.
Q: As a winner of four Stanley Cups, what were the biggest factors that contributed to you winning it each year?
A: It was two years in Pittsburgh and two in Detroit. We had basically the same type of team. We had real high-powered offense and a tremendous amount of depth. The ability to go out there and outplay the opposition, having the puck more than they did, that was the consistent thing between those four teams. We had a lot of talented guys. We fortunately got into a situation where that was the case. Timing is obviously a big part of it. I was in the right place at the right time.
Q: How has broadcasting changed your perception and appreciation for the game?
A: It is a lot less stressful, that’s for sure. We have to try to do the best job we can but as much as we want to see the Red Wings win, it really doesn’t matter. As a player, as a coach, you have a loss and it just grinds on you until you have the next game. I don’t have that in broadcasting. I like it because it’s still part of the game. I still love the game so it’s an opportunity to stay involved. It’s a really nice fit. It worked out great. It kind of fell into my lap, it wasn’t something I was pursuing. I got offered the opportunity and wasn’t sure at first, but after doing it for a season I thought, ‘I really like this.’ It’s challenging, there’s more work to it than I anticipated, so there’s a challenge there. You need to think on your feet. It’s exciting.
Interview conducted by Spencer Votipka
Did you read the recent LAKings.com alumni interview ‘Catching Up With…Eric Lacrioix’ – if not, check it out here and now: http://kings.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=647868&cmpid=rss-News. Check back soon for pieces featuring ex-Kings Rob Cowie, Garry Galley and Sean Pronger.
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