Writer-reporter Austin Murphy is understandably leery of certain varieties of hockey. He remembers how a boy named Brian Hoskins punched his nose and broke his glasses during a street hockey game in Pittsburgh 14 years ago. In another street hockey incident, Austin's younger brother, Chris, was thrown down so hard he got up with asphalt imbedded in his front teeth. Then there were his mother's trials as a field hockey goalie. After Pat Murphy's Colorado club team lost 27-0 to a barnstorming side from New Zealand in 1967, the Rocky Mountain News ran a photo, now in the Murphys' den, of her attempting in vain to prevent a goal. "The caption read, 'It was a nice try, Mrs. Murphy,' " says Austin. "It is generally agreed by the family, including Mom, that this would make a superb epitaph."
But ice hockey is another sport altogether, and Murphy this season has been only too glad to help cover the NHL for us. Even before he began, he knew the passions the sport can stir. In 1981 his brother Chris achieved a measure of fame in the Philadelphia area when TV cameras at a Flyers game caught him leaning over the ice to menace an official, and a local cable company used the clip in promo spots the next season. "He was the model of a Flyers fan," says Austin. "Our home was flooded with calls congratulating our parents." (Less apparent at that game were the spitballs that even-younger brother Mark, now a defensive tackle for the Boston College football team, propelled onto the helmets of several Calgary Flames as they sat on the bench. "They stayed on through an entire shift," says Mark proudly.)
Austin, 26, was an English major at Colgate, where he also ran the 400-meter one year, captained the rugby club and struggled bravely, if unsuccessfully, to make the varsity football team as a receiver. Though he didn't play hockey, he occasionally wrote about it in the Maroon. A related piece—"Devolution at Colgate?"—focused on broomball, a savage brand of hockey played on a frozen quagmire with brooms used to pelt rolls of toilet paper. "It was poorly supervised," says Murphy. "There were many instances of high-brooming."
Murphy's first hockey story of '87 was his profile of Detroit Red Wings coach Jacques Demers (March 16). He has written all our NHL articles since, including this week's on the rivalry between Quebec and Montreal (page 20). His second week on the beat, a few Hartford Whalers took him for beers after a game in Winnipeg. "There's something refreshing about hockey players," says Murphy. "They made me feel right at home."
Murphy seems at ease on ice.