While he rarely has time to get a proper night's sleep or even eat a decent meal, there's at least one game-day ritual Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray never omits.
"I always call home to Minnesota just before the game and talk to my wife and kids or I call my mom in Brandon ... That's probably the best time of the day for me -- sort of the quiet before the storm."
Murray, a 54-year-old from Souris who still spends his summers in Manitoba (at Clear Lake), is in his seventh season as head coach of the Kings, making him one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NHL.
One of the things which has allowed him to stay in the position for so long is the very quality that leads him to talk to his mom Florence on almost a daily basis.
"Every coach has their routine and that's what life is all about to some degree," Murray said. "I don't call it superstition, I call it just good preparation."
That preparation begins very early on game day. Murray is up at 5:30 a.m. and in his office at the Kings training facility in El Segundo, Calif., by 6:30.
He can recite his day by heart, being careful to include exact times of everything from meetings, to media availability to lunch to his afternoon nap.
The first thing he does is review and tweak his game notes before going on the Internet to read as many articles about the Kings' opponent as he can find. The first coaching staff meeting is from 8 to 9 a.m. and Murray meets with individual players from 9-9:45.
"I've got a saying that I've always used: 'Before players care how much you know, they want to know how much you care,'" Murray said. "If you take time for the people that work with you, you are going to get a lot more out of them. We do a lot of talking and probably one of the reasons I've been on the job here for seven years is that my relationship through good and bad times with the players has always been pretty good."
A team meeting is slated for 10 a.m., followed by a 22-minute skate (see what we mean about his precision) at 10:15 and a press conference at 11. One of the most media-accessible coaches in the league, Murray spends up to an hour with the press before heading for lunch at noon.
After lunch, he goes back to his hotel suite (a two-minute walk from the practice facility) and has a little down time.
"If I get a quick power nap for even 10 or 15 minutes during the day, I feel great," he said. "I've got as much energy as I've always had, coaching or playing or whatever."
During the break, Murray takes time to call home to Faribault, Minn., where his wife Ruth (originally from Minnedosa) lives and where daughter Sarah, 17, and son Jordy, 15, attend classes and play hockey at the prestigious Shattuck-St.-Mary's High School. Murray's oldest son Brady, a Kings' draft pick, is playing in Switzerland this year.
At 3 p.m., Murray picks up one of his assistant coaches and makes the half-hour drive into L.A. to the Staples Center to get ready for the game.
He spends some time looking after personal business, writing preparation points on the dressing room white board, making notes for the pre-game meeting and, at 4 p.m., tuning in to NHL games that have already started on the East Coast.
The penalty-killing units meet at 5:30, the power-play at 5:40 and the whole team at 5:50. He does pre-game interviews for TV and radio at 6 and phones a family member or two at 6:15.
"It's a stress-reliever to phone my mom or my wife or talk to my kids."
At 7, the players head out for the warmup and the coaches watch the opponents on the ice, trying to get an idea of what line combinations they might face.
Then comes another ritual from which Murray never wavers.
"The game starts at 7:30 and I go in at 7:24 to talk to the team," he said. "I walk in the room every time exactly six minutes before the game starts. I give them a couple of quick points and then they go on the ice.
"Actually, I go in exactly six minutes before each period is to start. A lot of people ask 'Why do you walk in at exactly six minutes before? Is it superstition?' Well, coaching is all about developing a belief system on the part of your players and to do that you've got to make sure you've got credibility when you talk to them. You've got to show that you are well prepared and well organized."
Those pre-action visits are sometimes animated and sometimes low key, but always essential.
"How you do on the ice is all about the preparation you have done before, but there's always something you can say that can raise the attention level and the sense of urgency in the game. There's always something you can focus on to hopefully heighten the passion a little bit."
After the game, Murray has a quick meeting with his assistants and then visits the players again.
"As a coach, whether you win or lose, you always need to have something to say to your team," Murray said.
"It's obviously a good feeling walking in after the game and being able to address the team if the players played hard that night."
After that Murray heads into the 'war room' where he meets with general manager Dave Taylor and all the other coaching personnel to analyze the game.
"I usually leave the arena around 11, order a pizza or grab a sub, and then I go home and watch the tape of the game. Then I get up at 5:30 in the morning again."
Game is life
Spending 19-20 hours a day on the job and living in a hotel wouldn't be the perfect life for everyone, but Murray lives and breathes hockey and that makes his situation ideal.
"Living in the hotel is easy when we're on the road and with my family not here it's just right," said Murray, who has a 190-151-58-28 career record with the Kings and is the team's all-time leader in games coached and victories. "That way someone makes my bed every day. I tell people it's just like home ... I call downstairs and they bring room service up."
Meanwhile, he believes his work ethic rubs off on the Kings players.
"I tell coaches all the time that you've got to live the practice. Passion and energy can be contagious and I've told our coaches we can't ever afford to have a down day no matter what's happened or what's gone on the night before. We have to realize how fortunate we are to be doing what we are and if we start feeling sorry for ourselves and don't have that energy level, that practice isn't going to be very good. You've got to come energized every day if you expect the people that you are working with to be energized."
The Kings are currently 12-5-1 and are in first place in the Pacific Division so it doesn't look like Murray will be relinquishing his post any time soon. And that's great news to a career hockey man.
"It's a case of not wanting to have to get a real job," he said.
"My cousins and uncle keep telling me that I've got to come back (to Brandon) and get involved in the car business and I keep telling them that I don't want to get a real job yet."
Andy Murray, up close and personal
- Born March 3, 1951 in Gladstone, Man.
- Raised in Souris, Man.
- Married to Ruth, father of Brady, 20, Sarah, 17 and Jordan 15.
- Lives in Faribault, Minn., has summer home in Clear Lake, Man.
- First coaching job with Brandon Travellers of the MJHL
- Has degree in education
- Head coach of the Brandon University Bobcats when team was ranked No. 1 in CIAU in 1981
- Coached seven years in the Swiss Elite League
- First NHL coaching job was as an assistant with Philadelphia Flyers in 1988-'89
- Served as assistant with Minnesota North Stars and Winnipeg Jets
- Head coach of Canadian national team, leading team to world championships in 1997 and 2003. Only Canadian coach to win two gold medals
- Assistant coach for Team Canada at 1996 World Cup and 1998 Winter Olympics
- Simultaneously coached professional team in Koln, Germany and Shattuck-St. Mary's prep-school team in Faribault, Minn. in 1998-99
- Named Kings head coach on June 14, 1999
- Kings all-time leader in games coached and victories
- Has 190-151-58-28 all-time record as Kings coach