Before his death in 2001 at the incredible age of almost 97, former New York Rangers standout/Yale coaching legend Murray Murdoch was able to share some of his very vivid personal memories. He was an encyclopedia of first-hand knowledge, able to share thoughts and first hand accounts of some of the great players we have only heard about.
Players like Eddie Shore.
"I knew Eddie when he was 15 and I was 17 and we went to the same school in Winnipeg. He got kicked out for smoking, as I recall. But he became a great defenseman. He had a way of coming around the net and up the ice, weaving along. It was hard to take the puck from him. But because I knew him, I knew you had to get him as he was coming around the net."
And Howie Morenz.
"He was the greatest player I ever saw. When he got the puck and took off up ice, he was one of the fastest skaters I have ever seen. He was like a streak of light."
And the Maple Leafs' "Kid Line" of Charlie Conacher Joe Primeau, and Busher Jackson.
"Conacher thought that when he went into the locker room between periods that I was going to go with him. [Along with linemates Paul Thompson and Butch Keeling] We shadowed them pretty good. When that line came on the ice, we had to go on against them."
And the most common question he got was about Lester Patrick's famous donning of the pads as a 44 year old coach in 1929.
"He went in and of course we had three or four coaches [from other teams] come down to coach the team while Lester was in the net. Montreal was shooting from a long distance and Lester was stopping them. Lester had played a certain amount of goal because we only carried one goaltender and when we scrimmaged he sometimes put on the pads and played goal and coached the defense. He could coach from that position. If they did something wrong, he was able to point it out to them.
"He let one goal in and Frankie Boucher scored the game-winner [in overtime]. It was 2-1."
Before his death he was asked about the evolution of the game.
"I never thought the game would go worldwide. It's surprising to me. When you read the names, they're hard to pronounce. The players come from all over the world. When I played, it was solely a Canadian game. We never dreamed there would be teams in Phoenix, San Jose, Florida.
"I like today's game very much. It's very fast. The stars are better today than they were when I played, but there aren't as many of them."