October 06, 2015
Bryan Muir was not your typical fighter in the hockey world.
No, his fight came off the ice back when he was a youth. From the ages of 10 through 14 he suffered through a little known condition called Graves' disease, in which the immune system targets certain tissues, attacks them and causes over-activity of the thyroid gland.
"How the doctors explained (the disease) to me was that it was like having a car in neutral with the gas pedal floored." he said. "My body was going a million miles an hour but it wasn't going anywhere. It was eating itself away. My heart rate was 110 at rest and my hair was falling out."
Even as a youth Muir's biggest worry was not being able to play hockey with his friends. He was completely off the ice for two consecutive years, though he returned once doctors got the condition under control.
He not only returned, but became one of the best players in the province of Manitoba. He earned a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire, where he played three seasons before joining the Canadian national team in 1995.
That was just the start. Though he was never drafted by a NHL team he accepted a try out with the Edmonton Oilers that led to a NHL contract offer.
Though he played mostly in the minor leagues while with the Oilers system, his hard work paid off time and again with contract offers. When all was said and done he pieced together a 15 year professional career including stops in New Jersey, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Washington and Los Angeles, as well as Europe.
The highlight had to be the spring of 2001. Though he played just 22 games with the Avalanche all season long, he played in every one of Colorado's 21 playoff games as they defeated the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup.
"The day we won that Cup was something to behold, I was blessed to be part of that team," said Muir, who played 279 NHL games as well 29 more in the playoffs.
Of course, that was the year most people were watching a slightly better known defenseman win his first Stanley Cup - Ray Bourque.
"Ray was crying hoisting the trophy up after (captain) Joe Sakic handed it to him and I was almost in tears myself," Muir said. "To see a guy who worked 22 years to get it and earn it, that was an elating feeling for me to watch him do it and be part of it with him. He's a class individual and one of the best people I've ever played with. He's a true leader and a good person all-around."
Muir's only full NHL season came in 2005-06 when he played 72 games with Washington. And to prove his true journeyman status, you only had to look out in the parking lot. While most of his teammates were driving some pretty sweet rides, he was driving a dusty 1997 Volkswagon Cabriolet he borrowed from his parents.
"Hey, it gets me around from Point A to Point B," he said trying to defend himself. "Yeah, I've caught some slack. You look out in that parking lot and see all of those nice cars with big rims, then I come driving in with my Volkswagen and 14-inch, pizza-cutter rims. It's kind of funny."
Teammate Ben Clymer said "It's the worst car in the NHL, hands down. It might be the worst car in pro hockey, even the minor leaguers have better cars."
Muir could laugh about the car. After all, he survived a lot worse in life.
Muir retired in 2009 and now sells a U.S. hedge fund and advises a service that provides content for financial newsletters.