Andy's the man

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

It was back in the spring of 2003, and Florence Murray of Souris was watching her son on television.

Thousands of miles away and across an ocean, in Finland, Andy Murray, the son of a car dealer who's made quite a name for himself in the hockey business, had just guided Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Hockey Championship.

It was soon after the final buzzer, and the on-ice celebrations were just underway, when Mrs. Murray saw her son get on a cellphone.

Who in heaven's name could he be phoning at this time, she wondered.

Then her phone rang, and who do you you think it was?

"What do ya think of that, mom?" the proud son said to an even prouder mother.

"I said, 'It's wonderful,' " Florence related yesterday.

April 27 to May 13, this time in Moscow, the car dealer's son will get another chance to lead his country.

The head coach who's worked a minor miracle with the NHL's St. Louis Blues this season was selected by Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman to take his act, and a team of players not in the Stanley Cup playoffs, to Russia.

It's Murray's fourth crack at the worlds -- he came home from Italy with a gold in 1997, too, but finished a distant sixth in Switzerland a year later.

That yesterday's announcement was made on the first day of the World Women's Hockey Championship would have raised eyebrows anywhere else. How dare they steal the women's thunder, after all.

But when it's Murray, a man with hockey roots deep as a Manitoba Maple here, it just makes sense.

Yzerman said he's been impressed with Murray ever since the two hooked up at the Nagano Olympics in '98, Yzerman as a player, Murray as an assistant coach.

"I liked the things he talked about and the way he presented things," Yzerman said. "That just kind of stuck with me."

Yzerman also noticed over the years how Murray's Los Angeles Kings always seemed prepared and tough to play against.

After seven years, the Kings had seen enough, but not Stevie-Y.

And when it was time to sit down with prospective coaches for the worlds, he immediately thought of Murray.

"I wasn't sure what his thoughts would be, but he seemed very excited about it," Yzerman said.

We could have told him that.

Murray has never met a Team Canada job he didn't like. He always jokes that he'd drive the team bus if they wanted him to, and he trotted that line out again yesterday.

His attachment to the Maple Leaf comes honestly, though.

"I remember Canada's national team, when it was staged in Winnipeg, and my dad taking me in to watch games and practices, and how excited I was to see those Canadian jerseys," Murray said, over the phone from Phoenix, where, he just had to mention, it was 96 degrees yesterday. "I've always seemed to have that attachment. You grow up hoping you can play for them, but obviously for me that wasn't a possibility. But to be associated in any way is really a privilege.

"I've had the good fortune in the last game of a couple of tournaments to see our flag being raised and our national anthem being played. What a special feeling that is."

Just 10 months ago Murray wasn't feeling so special. He'd been let go by the Kings and was out of work.

Here he is, back in the NHL and at the controls of Team Canada again.

You could say the comeback is complete.

And if Murray makes a favourable impression in Moscow, it could put him in line for a possible shot at Olympic gold in Vancouver in three years.

Now that would make for a special phone call back home to Souris.


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