The Chicago Blackhawks didn't really know just how good of a player they drafted when they snatched up Troy Murray 57th overall in the third round of the 1980 NHL entry draft.
The Calgary native was playing tier II in St. Albert, where he was a teammate of a young Mark Messier, before heading south to the University of North Dakota to study business administration and engineering. A dean's list student, Murray excelled on the ice too. He had a reputation as a great offensive player and a devastating bodychecker, but he would develop into a complete player at UND thanks to legendary coach Gino Gasparini.
"I was always a goal scorer," confessed Murray. "Gino Gasparini is the coach who really stressed playing in the defensive end. I give him more credit than anybody that I've gotten even as far as I've gotten."
Murray got far. He led the Sioux to the 1982 NCAA Championship. Over the Christmas break he captained Team Canada to the World Junior Championship.
Murray would leave school early to sign with the Hawks, though he finished his degree at DePaul University in the off-seasons of professional hockey. Though his first couple of seasons were not significant in terms of scoring, he made a big impression on NHL opponents.
Al Secord, an aggressive thumper in his own right, was impressed with Murray's play.
"When he first came to the club, I guess the biggest thing that stands out with me is how he used to throw out these real hard body checks. He used to nail guys and straighten them up. He's a very, very strong guy. He's very dedicated in the off season in conditioning. He comes to play.
Terry Ruskowski, another teammate, was also impressed.
"Because he was so strong on his skates and had such good balance, when he hit somebody, the guy was hit. To try to knock him off his skates was almost impossible. He was very sturdy on his skates. He was a good shot, and he handled the puck well."
Playing on a line with veteran Curt Fraser and hometown hero Eddie Olczyk, Murray enjoyed an incredible breakout year in 1985-86. He scored 45 goals and 54 assists for 99 points. Though he was one of the highest scorers in the league, his fine defensive play continued and for that he was recognized with the Frank J. Selke trophy as the league's pre-eminent defensive forward.
Murray was the perfect second punch up the middle that season, paying behind the dipsy doodle dandy Denis Savard. But Murray was never able to duplicate the offensive contributions like that again. Though he had good hands and excellent vision and anticipation, he was unable to or perhaps under-utilized when it came to creating offense.
Murray and Warren Rychel were traded to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a young, hard hitting defenseman named Bryan Marchment in the summer of 1991. Though the native Winnipeger was named team captain, he would return to Chicago in another trade a season and a half later. He would continue to bounce around the league until his retirement in 1997. His stops included Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Colorado, where he won a Stanley Cup title in 1996.
Troy Murray played in 915 NHL games, scoring 230 goals, 354 assists for 584 points. In retirement Murray has done both radio and television analysts of Hawks broadcasts, as well as worked as a stock trader on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.