A great feat for a great person

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

They were likely gathered around the TV sets at Atkinson's Bar in Shawville last night to watch one of their favourite sons try to make NHL history.

The 2,000 people who make up the town located 75 minutes east of Ottawa are already proud of Senators coach Bryan Murray, so joining the NHL's 600-win club is just another feather in his cap.

But as Murray was getting ready to face the Oilers last night at Scotiabank Place -- and on the verge of joining fraternity that includes Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (781), Dick Irvin (692) and Pat Quinn (657) -- he was able to keep things in perspective.

"It's a nice achievement," said Murray, who was behind the bench for his 1,199th NHL game against the Oilers. "It tells me that I've had a job in the league for a while. It's a real compliment to a lot of people who have played for me. I guess it's recognition of being in the top five in wins of the NHL is really something.

"When you're a young guy coming from a small village in the Ottawa Valley that means a lot to me. I always wanted to be involved in sport, to be involved in the NHL, in the highest league, and to be in that (group of people) is a nice thing to have happen over your career."

The group of coaches who have won 600 games is made up of people Murray respects. When he took the Capitals job in 1981, Murray learned from watching Islanders bench boss Al Arbour, a guy Murray always felt "was ahead of his time." Murray thought Quinn made a lot of sense.

"We always grow, if you don't in this business, or any business, you fall behind very quickly," said Murray, who is in the final year of his contract with Ottawa. "We play differently. We attack the puck carrier much more through the neutral zone than we ever did in the past. That part of the game has changed.

"It's still a great game. It's still a great show and it's still hockey. If you don't respect your players and trust the players to do what they do, then you really fall behind as well."

Coaching has always been in Murray's blood -- even during his three stints as a GM. His joy of coaching was one of the reasons why he stepped down as GM of the Ducks to come home and take over the Senators.

Other than his family, coaching is Murray's first love.

His closest friends in the game will tell you that. Columbus GM/president Doug MacLean worked with Murray in Detroit and was coach of the Panthers when Murray was GM as they went to the Stanley Cup final in 1996.

MacLean said getting 600 wins, with the constant changes in Murray's profession, isn't easy.

"That's great," said MacLean from GMs' meetings in Naples, Fla. "An amazing accomplishment in today's game with the pressure on coaches. He's a great coach who respects the game and the players. I was very lucky to have worked with him. He's a great mentor and a better person."

Along the way, Murray has had the chance to coach some pretty good people and he was asked to name his top five players through the years by the Sun: C Steve Yzerman, D Scott Stevens, W Bengt Gustafsson, C Sergei Fedorov and D Rod Langway were on his list.

"That's tough because there's been so many along the way. How do you leave out guys like Mike Gartner and where does Daniel Alfredsson fit on that list? There have been a lot of great ones," said Murray. "These guys are all similar because they're all character people. I had (Stevens) and Fedorov when they were kids. (Yzerman) was young, but he had been in the league a few years and he was developing into a great leader.

"These are all guys who made a commitment to the team and put winning ahead of their individual stats. That's what made them such great players."


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