Murray on comeback trail

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

DETROIT -- When you play in the National Hockey League, there are no promises. Any game could be your last.

For Rem Murray, that date may have been Jan. 6, 2004. But he's doing everything he can to defy the odds and postpone it.

This is not just another story of a worn-out player seeking one more chance. When Rem Murray left the game, there was nothing wrong with him -- as far as his hockey skills were concerned.

He had been an excellent defensive forward with the Edmonton Oilers, and was playing for the Nashville Predators in Detroit when he suddenly started having trouble with his neck. His head was trembling and there was nothing he could do about it.

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The Predators moved on to Toronto and the next night, with the situation worsening, Murray went to the emergency department at Western Hospital.

"Fortunately enough," he said, "a doctor on call was the leading expert in movement disorders. He diagnosed me with what's called cervical dystonia."

But a diagnosis is not a cure. The doctors knew what was wrong with Murray, but they didn't know what to do about it.

The situation worsened until his head slumped over to the left and rested on his shoulder.

"I just couldn't move it," he said. "I had no mobility at all."

It may have been the result of a blow to the head. That is sometimes the cause of cervical dystonia. But more likely, it was something else, a reason that the medical profession has not yet discovered.

Murray was disoriented and in tremendous pain.

"I remember trying to pour milk over a bowl of cereal," he said, "and I spilled it all over the kitchen table. The only time it was comfortable was when I was laying down. It was painful too -- really painful."

Murray tried a number of medical options.

"I went to see a neurologist in Nashville," he said, "and another in Houston. I was out for the season obviously. I've seen a lot of different professionals, from homeopaths to chiropractors. I ran the gamut of professionals."

But still, his neck rested on his left shoulder.

"They don't know much about it," Murray said. "They don't know the cause and there's really no cure for it. It's just a matter of treating the symptoms as much as possible.

"The neurologists, what they do is they administer botox into your neck. It helped me quite a bit with the pain and mobility."

As recently as two months ago, Murray still walked around with his head on his shoulder. But then fortune smiled.

"What really helped me the most was I went to see an osteopath in Toronto," Murray said.

"Manny Francis is his name. He really helped me.

"A couple of months ago, I didn't think I'd ever play again. I worked with him every week and I got to the point that it's not 100%, but I don't notice it when I'm out on the ice."

Murray has no guarantees from the Wings. If he can make the team, he'll be offered a contract. But at the moment, he's just one of a number of hopefuls.

"I just came on a tryout to see if my health is there," he said. "I feel good so far. I feel better every day, I get out there and I don't notice my neck at all. The only time I notice it is when I'm sitting here talking or sitting still. I still have some head tremors.

"If I move around a bit when I'm talking to you, you can't notice it, but if I stand still you can."

If he does get a contract, Murray will have to pay back the disability insurance he collected. But he loves the game so much, he's willing to do that.

"I really miss the game," he said. "I was gone for that year so I had a lot of time to think about it.

"But the biggest thing for me is quality of life. I've got three young kids and I want to be able to do things with them day to day.

"This would be a bonus."


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