Murray leads powerhouse in the making as Wheat Kings new GM

The last time Marty Murray joined the Brandon Wheat Kings, it was no big deal. All he had to do was help save a franchise.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/09/2022 (198 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The last time Marty Murray joined the Brandon Wheat Kings, it was no big deal. All he had to do was help save a franchise.

Thirty-one years later, the task is quite different and the consequences not nearly as dire.

Hired as the Western Hockey League club’s new general manager in late August, Murray’s immediate task is more mundane than the job he had of revitalizing a moribund team on the ice as a 16-year-old captain.

His immediate concern this time will be to shepherd what could be the league’s deepest group of young prospects to a position of dominance.

Brandon should be a solid playoff club this season with much bigger things expected in 2023-24 and beyond.

“We’re not ordering the rings for the Memorial Cup this year,” said Murray, in a recent chat with the Free Press. “You’ve gotta be careful and (acknowledge) that it’s a long-term thing. You want to make sure that you identify when it might be time to make trades if you feel you have a chance. Right now, for me, it’s just feeling out our group here and identifying some holes maybe and, hopefully, some players emerge. If not, we’ll work to fill some voids.”

Murray, a 47-year-old Lyleton product, will need to be a quick study.

Hired on the eve of training camp, he’s returning to the league after a lengthy time away. He had a 15-year pro playing career, spent nine years as a GM/head coach of the North American Hockey League’s Minot Minotaurs and, most recently, two seasons with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.

He was fired by the Stampede in June after missing the playoffs twice with a combined record of 37-69-6-4.

“It was almost a rebuild — we didn’t have a lot of returning players, a lot of prospects and draft picks and so it was a couple of trying years for sure,” said Murray of his USHL stint. “And the hard part for me is I think that things were certainly moving in the right direction. But you know, things happen for a reason and I’m happy to be back here.”

With veteran bench boss Don MacGillivray, director of hockey operations Chris Moulton and head scout Mark Johnston already in place in the Wheat City, Murray is happy to focus on his managerial duties and he’ll have time to get his bearings.

He remains widely revered by hockey fans in western Manitoba.

“For me, it’s too many hats to wear at this level and I’m anxious to sit back and work in the front office and support Don and the staff,” said Murray. “We both like and want to be a skilled team, but soft skill doesn’t get you very far in today’s game. We’ve got to have kids who have compete and wear their work boots every day and have that consistency in our game. Hopefully, you get the kids that have the ability to make plays and drive offence as well.”

“For me, it’s too many hats to wear at this level and I’m anxious to sit back and work in the front office and support Don (MacGillivray) and the staff.”–Marty Murray

Previous GMs Darren Ritchie and Doug Gasper accumulated and made a combined seven first-round picks in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 WHL Prospects Draft.

The result is an abundance of elite talent.

Forwards Nate Danielson, Rylen Roersma, Tyson Zimmer, Roger McQueen and Caleb Hadland and defencemen Quinn Mantei and Charlie Elick could all be on the roster when Brandon opens the regular season later this month. Goaltender Carson Bjarnason, undrafted as a 14-year-old, has been a fabulous late addition and now looks like a potential all-star.

“Before I accepted the job I wanted to make sure we had a good team of people in place because I always run things by committee and certainly give everybody a voice,” said Murray. “With the experience our guys have in the league, I know they’ve helped me a lot and we’re gonna work as a group here as we move forward.”

LIFE AFTER HOCKEY: Former Winnipeg Ice centre Cole Muir had college scholarship offers to play hockey at U Sports schools such as Manitoba, Regina, Calgary and Brock this fall but he’s taking another route after five years and 275 regular-season games in the WHL.

With the encouragement of former Wheat Kings goaltender Trevor Robins (currently a Brandon Police Service officer), Muir has enrolled in the Assiniboine Community College’s public safety certificate program.

The eight-month program, which includes 400 hours of community service, is offered in partnership with the BPS and can lead directly to employment.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Muir, a key member of Ice in 2021-22. “We do police training every morning and I ran five (kilometres) the other morning and did a beep test this morning. And then the book stuff is really interesting as well — learning about the criminal code and criminal law and all that.”

Muir, who grew up on a farm near Vista, is enjoying city life.

“I think I’m just gonna stick in Brandon for the first few years just because I know the place pretty well,” said Muir. “I don’t think I’d want to go to a big city as my first police job.”

Twitter @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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