Murray Armstrong

The son of the local blacksmith, Murray Armstrong was born on New Year's Day, 1916 in Manor, Saskatchewan. He would grow up as the local hockey hero, one day graduating to the junior Regina Pats.

By 1935 he would turn professional in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, but he would spend the bulk of four seasons playing in the minor leagues, most notably with the Syracuse Stars of the AHL. He did get into 12 games of NHL action with the Leafs, plus three more in the playoffs. He picked up one assist. The Leafs of the 1930s were a powerhouse team, despite their lack of playoff success.

His otherwise unnoteworthy career to this point got a major jolt of rejuvenation when he was traded to the New York Americans in 1939. Armstrong, likely because of his affiliation up state in Syracuse, was a throw in to complete a major trade. The Leafs moved Armstrong, Buzz Boll, Busher Jackson and Doc Romnes for Sweeney Schriner, the best left winger in the game.

Much to many people's surprise, Armstrong emerged as a very solid NHL citizen in 1939-40. Playing with Jackson and Lorne Carr he scored 16 goals and 36 points in 47 games, very solid numbers for the era.

Armstrong would have two more solid years with the Amerks before he committed to Canadian military efforts of World War II. He was stationed back in Regina, home of much of Canada's military training exercises, and continued to play in the Saskatchewan senior circuit.

When Armstrong returned from his one year hiatus he ended up in Detroit with the Red Wings. During his absence the NY Americans had closed up shop and the players' rights were dispersed around the league. Armstrong put in three solid seasons with the Red Wings, with his NHL career ending in 1946.

"Army" continued to play in the minor leagues with the Buffalo Bisons and Dallas Texans in 1946-47, and that is where he caught the coaching bug. He returned home to Regina in 1947 to coach the Pats, by now a Montreal Canadiens feeder team, and pursue business interests that included two billiard halls and a clothing business.

Armstrong remained coach of the Pats until 1956 when he accepted the intriguing job as head coach of the University of Denver hockey team. He would guide the collegians for 21 years, winning five NCAA titles with one of the strongest hockey programs ever seen in US College hockey. His NHL graduates included Cliff Koroll and Keith Magnuson.

For all his efforts at the University of Denver, Murray Armstrong was rewarded with the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in the United States upon his retirement in 1977.

Like any good Canadian snowbird, Armstrong opted to retire in the warmth of Florida.


Tom Gilmore,  12:01 PM  

Here's to the CHIEF,

Talk to any of Murray's players and they will tell you "the best coach and motivator of his time". He was a man of principle and discipline. To this day, most of his players would rate him as one of the most positive influences in their lives. He left his mark on the NCAA records, but as well he changed how the NHL recruited and drafted College players, due to the influence of his coaching techniques. He remembered his Canadian heritage, but absolutely insisted his Canadian hockey players stand completely still during the American National Anthem as a sign of respect for the hospitality afforded all of us. Murray was a true gentleman.

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