Robert Ronald Murphy
Born: April 10, 1933 (Hamilton, Ontario)
Died: March 6, 2014
Ron Murphy was a stalwart left winger during the final years of the NHL’s Original Six era. He skated for all four of the American-based teams, winning the Stanley Cup in 1961 with the Chicago Black Hawks and concluding an 18-year career by getting his name engraved on the Cup again in 1970 with the Boston Bruins, even though by that time he had retired.
Murphy scored an astounding 141 goals in three seasons of junior hockey with the Guelph (Ont.) Biltmore Mad Hatters. He led the Biltmores to the 1952 Memorial Cup championship, scoring 13 goals in 12 playoff games, as Guelph swept the Regina Pats in four games — 8-2, 4-2, 8-2, 10-2 — at Maple Leafs Gardens in Toronto. The Biltmores were coached by former Rangers star Alf Pike and several of his teammates went on to NHL careers, including future Hall of Famers Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell, who would later become Murphy’s brother-in-law.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward was promoted to the NHL with a 15-game tryout with the New York Rangers in 1952-53. Much was expected of the highly touted junior scoring sensation in his first full campaign in 1953-54. On Dec. 20, 1953, he suffered a concussion and a broken jaw when he lost a stick-swinging duel with Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion of the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers were leading 2-0 in the second period when a fight broke out at 15:20 of the second period. All the players on the ice became involved with much butt-ending and high-sticking taking place. Finally, Geoffrion picked up his own stick to administer three vicious swings, at last connecting with a two-handed clubbing to the side of Murphy’s head. The blow struck him on the left temple and he collapsed unconscious to the ice, landing face first.
Referee Red Storey gave a match penalty to both Murphy and Geoffrion, carrying with it an automatic $100 fine. Murphy was revived by Dr. Vincent Nardiello and taken to St. Clare’s Hospital. Meanwhile, fans threw cans of beer at the players and the Canadiens became embroiled in a shoving match with spectators at Madison Square Garden. NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended Geoffrion for all of Montreal’s remaining games against the Rangers that season. Murphy was suspended five games, but missed the rest of the NHL season with his injuries.
After two more seasons, the Rangers swapped Murphy to the Chicago Black Hawks for centre Hank Ciesla. Murphy enjoyed seven productive years with Chicago, scoring a career-high 21 goals while playing on the third line for the Black Hawks in 1960-61. Murphy also scored goals in Games 3 and 5 of the Stanley Cup finals against Detroit, which Chicago won in six games.
In June, 1964, Murphy went to Detroit in a five-player deal. He scored 20 goals for the Red Wings in 1964-65, but his production was limited the following season and he was part of another deal following a game on Feb. 16, 1966, when Boston beat Detroit 5-4. After the final whistle, Murphy, Gary Doak. Bill Lesuk and an unnamed farm-team player were sent to Boston in exchange for Dean Prentice and Leo Boivin. (Coincidentally, Prentice had been one of his teammates at Guelph.) Murphy announced he would retire, but the Bruins coaxed him into continuing.
Murphy skated in only 12 games in 1967-68, the first post-expansion season, as he recovered from surgery for a shoulder and bicep injury. He returned only to suffer a foot injury.
Known as a tireless skater, Murphy was used as a checking forward by the Bruins, who were transforming from perennial doormats to a powerhouse. At age 35, he scored 16 goals and added 38 assists in 1968-69, as the Bruins scored a league-leading 303 goals. Murphy played on a line with Ken Hodge and Phil Esposito, who won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring leader. (The line set an NHL record for points scored with 263.) Murphy had another four goals in 10 playoff games, though his Bruins were eliminated by the Canadiens in the semifinals.
Murphy dressed for just 20 games in his final season in 1969-70 and retired in March. The Bruins went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 29 years and Murphy’s name was engraved on the storied trophy for a second time.
In 889 NHL games, Murphy scored 205 goals with 274 assists. He also scored seven playoff goals.
He coached the junior Kitchener Rangers and owned a hotel, Murph’s Place, in rural Hagersville, Ont.
A fall down a flight of stairs at his home in Nanticoke, Ont., broke his neck in three places. His face-first fall, an echo of his terrible injury on the ice so many years earlier, left him unconscious at the foot of the stairs for 11 hours. Murphy used a wheelchair in the final 12 years of his life.