View Full Version : Murray Armstrong Passes Away

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12-09-2010, 12:31 PM
Legendary DU coach, Murray Armstong passed away yesterday. It is a sad day for the Pioneer family. I knew Murray very well as I was associated with the team his last few years at DU. He will be greatly missed by all. Hail to the Chief!!!!

In accordance with Murray’s request, there will be no funeral services. His family plans to scatter his ashes on his home golf course according to his wishes. Any of the hockey fraternity that wants to send a card or note to Murray’s wife/family can do so at 607 Mulligan Way, St. Augustine, FL 32080.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL (December 8, 2010) -- Legendary DU hockey coach, Murray Armstrong, has died of complications, following a series of strokes. He was 94; just 24 days shy of his 95th birthday.

Armstrong coached the DU Pioneers from 1956 until 1977, amassing one of the most impressive records in college hockey history. His teams won five NCAA Championships and finished as runners-up four times.

After playing junior hockey, he played 9 years in the National Hockey League in the 1930s and 40s, finishing his career with the Detroit Red Wings. After World War II he then coached the Regina Pats until he was hired by the University of Denver.

When he arrived he promised to give DU a national championship in three years or he’d quit. He delivered on the promise in only two years.

Armstrong often said his proudest accomplishment was “all of the fine young men” whose lives he touched. He was in contact with many of his former players to the end.

In 2009, his former players created a book of “Murray-isms” – some of his sayings that live on. They called it “Don’t Think, It Hurts the Club!” Among his favorite sayings: “Excuses are for losers.”

He retired to Venice, Florida in 1977 where he pursued his other sporting passion – golf. He played the game regularly until 2010 when he was 94.

In 2000, he and his wife moved to St. Augustine, Florida, to be closer to his son and his wife.

Armstrong is survived by Freda, his wife of 68 years, and his son, Rob.

Memorial donations should be directed to: Community Hospice Foundation, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32257.

12-09-2010, 12:53 PM
Rest Well Chief!

12-09-2010, 12:54 PM
May he RIP. Great coach, and a wonderful Denver legacy.

12-09-2010, 12:56 PM
RIP to a great coach.

Fighting Sioux 23
12-09-2010, 12:57 PM
Hail to the Chief for certain.

Always was a thorn in North Dakota's side, but what a great man. His achievements at DU are legendary. Put together perhaps the greatest collegiate team of all-time in 1960-1961, among many other great teams. That being said, married 68 years...that's impressive on its own.

A tough loss for college hockey, but what a great life lived.

12-09-2010, 12:58 PM
Condolences to his family and DU fans. 94 years is a good run by any standard.

12-09-2010, 01:23 PM

The Chief with Maggie :(

12-09-2010, 02:00 PM

The Chief with Maggie :(

Two DU Legends
Gone But Not Forgotten

Puck Swami
12-09-2010, 02:08 PM
Murray got 94 years out of a great life. There are no tears today. Only smiles for a life well-lived.

He ranks among the greatest college coaches of all time. Only one other coach topped him in NCAA titles won.

Right now, he hanging out with the other coaching legends -- Snooks, Fido, Badger, Herbie, Amo, Ned, Heyliger, Macinnes, Charlie and Cooney. Probably even sharing a toast with his old enemy, Mariucci.

Old Pio
12-09-2010, 02:48 PM
There will never be another. But he was about more than hockey. Herb Brooks told me that whenever DU and Minnesota played, he and Murray would get together for a meal. And hockey was never discussed. Instead, Murray wanted to know how Herbie's investments and business ventures were doing. And he offered suggestions and advice which Herb said he usually took.

He also had a personal impact on me. He made it possible for me to get my first professional job. His son Rob and I were up for a job and the radio station told Murray they'd be happy to hire Rob if that's what he wanted. Murray told 'em thanks, but if the other guy's better, hire him. Later that season I stupidly mentioned something about Murray paying 50 bucks out of his own pocket for hat tricks. Legendary referee Andre Gambucci was listening in the Springs and passed the word on to Murray for that kid to shut up. Again, the radio station helpfully told Chief they'd happily dump me if that's what he wanted. Again, he said no, just tell him to keep his mouth shut.

Thanks, coach. The University of Denver and I owe you a lot.

12-09-2010, 02:54 PM
Certainly one of the greatest college coaches - probably the best ever.

Third Family Member
12-09-2010, 03:00 PM
Mr. Armstrong, and that's what he always was to me, was one of those great legendary coaches who I got to meet when another legendary coach, Amo Bessone, saw that a girl could do a job in hockey management as well as a guy. Mr. Armstrong was so willing to answer questions for me when Denver came to Michigan State and I even got a variation of his excuses are for losers, when I tried to explain why we were doing something in a particular way at MSU--"that's not a reason, that's an excuse!" Stopped me dead in my tracks and made me think--not of a better way to do it, but how to better explain why I was doing it the way I was. I just got a nod then, and prefer to think he found it acceptable rather than totally hopeless.

RIP Mr. Armstrong. I kind of think there are some really good old time WCHA coaches up there figuring out ways to make hockey in heaven better.

12-09-2010, 03:20 PM
All you need to know about Murray was that he owned a pink Caddiac. The letter below was sent around by the DU hockey alumni this week by a former player...

I thought that it would be appropriate for my Christmas message this year to recall some of my personal memories of Murray. It is also an open invitation for everyone to share their memories of Murray as well.

I always remember Murray in his fedora. You rarely saw him without it. I first met Murray in Brampton Ontario in the Spring of 1966 and of course he was wearing his fedora. I was impressed with Murray and the University of Denver hockey program. I committed to go to DU. However, when it came to admission I needed to upgrade my marks. I thought I would not be able to get into DU that year but Murray suggested that I come down and attend Arapahoe Junior College and then apply as a Junior College transfer. I was probably the only Junior College transfer in DU history at the time. I don’t know if subsequently there were others. Murray could have passed me over but when he made a commitment to you he honoured it. I don’t think Murray ever had anyone sign a letter of intent to attend DU your word and his word was all that was needed. At the time freshman weren’t eligible to play their first year so I was able to practice.

When I came to Denver Murray let me use his beloved pink Cadillac so I could get to classes at Arapahoe Junior College. Thankfully gas was only 19 cents a gallon at the time. He made arrangements for me to live with some of the Manitoba crew Gerry Johnasson, Ed Hamiliton and Al Genovy in a house near the downtown area. We lived there at a reduced rent in return for cleaning an office next door. I recall a couple of parties in that house but those stories are for a different time.

I was able to get my grades up and transferred to DU in the winter quarter. I then had my scholarship and was able to move into the dorms on campus and got my meal pass for the cafeteria in the dorm, which meant I could eat on a regular basis but I had to give up the pink Cadillac.

I remember some of the conversations I had with Murray in his office. He told me that he never discouraged anyone from trying out for the hockey team. Players would come and go but he had never cut anyone from the team.

He said prior to our freshman class in 1967 he never had any rules for the team but the year before Steve Keeler had broken his leg Spring skiing so now his only rule was no skiing. Steve was in the DU Infirmary with his leg in traction for quite a long time. I am sure there were some other temporary rules like no snowmobiling in North Dakota, no putting furniture in the hotel elevators. There was one other unspoken rule and that was to respect the National Anthem when it was played at the start of the game. This was our time to stand together as a team and to be proud to wear the DU sweater. There was an article in the DU Magazine a couple of years ago from one of the players about how Murray instilled honour and respect in his players and team unity by respecting the national anthem. I kept it in a safe place but can’t remember where that place is so my apologies for not giving recognition to whoever sent it.

We all knew it was worth your life to move before the Anthem was over or draw attention to yourself by shifting from skate to skate. I have always remembered that life lesson on unity and patriotism. We all remember his motivational talk about standing during the national anthem. I may not recall it verbatim but he would say “ When you are standing on the blueline during the national anthem and the pee runs down your leg and you look at the player across the ice you know in your heart that you are in better condition and have worked and practised harder than he has and that will be the difference in the game.“ As we know Tom Peluso sent in a nomination for Murray for the US Hockey Hall of Fame. The selection committee did not accept Murray’s nomination this year because there was no proof of Murray’s US citizenship with the application. If they only knew what we knew and how patriotic he was to his adopted country and how he had instilled that same sense of patriotism in all his players for the opportunity to attend university and play in one of the premier hockey programs in US College Hockey. Tom Peluso and Rob Armstrong are working to correct that small omission but unfortunately it has to wait until next year.

I think Murray expected that we would be responsible young men and we would not want to do anything that would be detrimental to the DU Hockey program. While there may have been a few hiccups along the way I think we always respected Murray’s faith and trust in us. We did not want to let him down. Murray always looked to the Seniors to provide the example and leadership for the team. Although there may have been some exceptions I always remember that the team captains were the Seniors.

Most of the coaches in the other sports at Denver coached as well as taught phys ed classes. I asked Murray why he didn’t teach phys ed classes. He said when he first came to DU they had him teaching golf classes. Everyone in his golf classes always got an A so the administration decided that Murray wasn’t cut out to be an instructor.

Murray knew each of us individually. I remember hearing a story about a telegram that Murray read to the team between periods when they were behind in a game. He identified the special people in the players lives and individual messages from those who had sent the telegram. When the team got back to Denver and talked about how the telegram they had sent had inspired the team – no one said they had sent a telegram - Murray had read a blank piece of paper. I hope it is not an urban legend and I would love to hear that actual story from those players that were there and the impact it had on them.

Truly there was an Armstrong Era. His Legacy lives on in each of us who were fortunate enough to call him our coach and our friend. When I look back on my time at Denver there is a sense of connection, a bond with each player who has proudly worn the DU Jersey in whatever year we played past or present. For when all is said and done we were a Pioneer.

12-09-2010, 03:50 PM
Mike Chambers of the Denver Post with memories of Murray Armstrong. There's a list of some Maurray-isms in the article

Ralph Baer
12-09-2010, 03:57 PM
RIP, Coach Armstrong

12-09-2010, 04:23 PM
tUMD owes a tip of the cap to Murray. RIP.

12-09-2010, 04:50 PM
RIP coach. the memories being posted are priceless.

Puck Swami
12-09-2010, 05:39 PM
tUMD owes a tip of the cap to Murray. RIP.

I think Murray helped recruit the first UMD team, as I recall.

12-09-2010, 06:04 PM
I believe Murray only came back to DU twice after his retirement -- in '89, for the 40th anniversary of DU hockey and for one of the HOF induction ceremonies. I was lucky enough to have Jimbo introduce me to him back in '89, though I was working a t-shirt stand at the event and didn't have much time to talk with him it was still a special moment.

Puck Swami
12-09-2010, 06:43 PM
Great job on the DU press release on this, quoting all living head coaches who coached for DU - Gwozdecky, Seratorre, Backstrom and Johnston on Murray's legacy.