SUN Hockey Pool

Beating all the odds

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

You're not supposed to chalk up moral victories at this stage of the season when all that matter are wins, points, and places in the standings.

But Rem Murray deserved a moment yesterday to savour a personal triumph when he slipped on an Oilers jersey and hit the ice at Rexall Place.

"It was unbelievable" said Murray, back in the NHL after recovering from a rare muscle disorder that almost ended his career. "I was probably more nervous for that game than I've been before in my entire career. But it was great to be back."

LOCKED THE MUSCLES

When Murray, 33, left the NHL in 2004, he thought he was never coming back. Cervical dystonia locked the muscles in his neck so tightly he couldn't lift his chin off his chest or turn his head to the right. He spent every waking moment looking like he was trying to see into his shirt pocket.

His career looked over and it looked like his life might never be the same.

"I filed my (retirement) papers and collected insurance. I thought I was done for sure."

Then the Botox injections in his neck, which hadn't had much of an effect to that point, started working last summer.

"Every time I had injections of the Botox, it got better each time. I get them every three months. It relaxes the muscles. It feels pretty good. And I've got the youngest looking neck in the league."

A few months before training camp, he was healthy enough to play and received an invitation to Red Wings camp, but lost out to Dan Cleary for the last spot.

"I probably wasn't as prepared as I usually am for camp because I didn't have time to train," he said. "So the opportunity in Houston was huge."

He signed with the AHL Aeros, coached by former U of A coach Rob Daum, and caught Edmonton's interest.

"Last week they told me there was some interest. I didn't know if it would come about or not; they said they'd make a decision after the weekend. Then I was getting ready for a nap before a game on Saturday night and they said 'Can you jump on a plane in three hours?' I said 'Absolutely.'

"I would have gone anywhere obviously, but to be here is my first choice."

After a long, late-night flight from Houston, Murray didn't see a lot of ice, just 6:35.

But one of the most popular Oilers in his first stint here was a welcome addition in the dressing room.

KNOWS THE SYSTEM

"He gives us experience, he knows the guys, he knows the system we play," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "We've been watching him play in Houston the last month or so.

"He was playing fine, we had a bunch of people watching him and they had a very positive assessment of him."

He's wearing Charlie Huddy's old 22, on the advice of his young daughter.

"There were a few numbers left, but I asked her to pick and she said 22."

The neck, he says, feels fine.

"When I get on the ice I don't notice it at all. The only time I really notice it is when I'm inactive and sitting around. It's been great that way. It's been a release to get out on the ice and play hockey and not think about it."

Murray's Oiler cheques essentially go to pay back the insurance he collected when he retired, but he's not in this for the cash.

"The playoff atmosphere, Edmonton's crowd, it was phenomenal," he said, adding he can't explain how good it feels to be back.

"It was a long travel day and a long night (getting to Edmonton), but the adrenalin was flowing pretty good."


Videos

Photos