Andy Murray, a high school coach just last year, has Los Angeles
playing with youthful enthusiasm
Kings rookie coach Andy Murray doesn't want praise for Los
Angeles's fine record (14-7-6-1 through Sunday), nor does he
seek commendation for having helped the team overcome injuries
to star forwards Luc Robitaille and Jozef Stumpel as well as a
season-opening seven-game road trip. What Murray does want to
hear is that L.A. is playing like a high school team. "That's a
compliment," he says. "The same principles apply at every level:
If your players are committed, you have success."
Last year Murray coached Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in
Faribault, Minn., which he guided to a 70-9-2 record and the
Midget Triple A USA Hockey national championship. Eight months
later he's in charge of a group that's burying the memory of a
dismal 1998-99 season (32-45-5) by mustering the same intensity
and consistency that were hallmarks at Shattuck.
Murray's credentials include having coached Team Canada to the
gold medal at the 1997 world championships and having served as
an assistant with three NHL teams. But when he interviewed with
Los Angeles general manager Dave Taylor in June, Murray made a
strong impression by launching into specific analyses of the
Kings' shortcomings (lack of drive and discipline) and vowing to
fix them by taking pages out of his high school playbook.
Murray, 48, was lauded for how openly he spoke with his
student-athletes last season, and upon landing the Kings' job he
won over his new players by visiting each of them--he flew as
far as Finland and Austria--to talk about the team. Then, when
the players arrived in training camp, they saw numerous slogans
on dressing-room walls that Shattuck had rallied around last
year, including CHAMPIONS DON'T JUST HAPPEN--THEY COME FROM
WITHIN AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND GREAT IS EXTRA EFFORT.
"It seems odd, but we like all the sayings," says L.A. wing Glen
Murray (no relation). "It's a long season, and they help you
focus for each game." The Kings have also embraced their coach's
other methods, which include detail-oriented practices, calling
out players for criticism at team meetings and a pregame
stretching ritual in which players go around the room and talk
about the game plan.
According to defenseman and captain Rob Blake, all of this has
"infected us with great enthusiasm." That was heightened
recently when Murray juiced an otherwise ordinary practice by
allowing three youngsters from Shattuck to take part. "After
practice I asked the kids what they thought," says Murray. "They
said we were just about at the Shattuck level. So I guess we
still have some work to do."
Goalie Sues Father
IT'S ALL ABOUT MONEY
Mighty Ducks netminder Dominic Roussel fondly recalls the
childhood days he spent with his father, Andre, on the frozen
sheet outside their house in Hull, Que. Andre, a former college
goalie, shot pucks and tennis balls at Dominic, instructing his
son and shouting encouragement. "He was a wonderful father,"
says Dominic, "until I started making money. Then I became a
dollar sign to him."
Andre and Dominic don't talk to each other any more. They are
locked in a legal dispute that's scheduled to go to trial in
Superior Court in St-Jerome, Que., a few miles north of
Montreal, in the summer. Dominic, 29, is suing Andre for
approximately $250,000, money he says was siphoned from him
between 1992 and '96 when Andre served as Dominic's financial
adviser and had his power of attorney. Andre, who could not be
reached for comment and whose lawyer, Mario Proulx, didn't
return calls last week, is countersuing for about $1.5 million.
Andre believes he is owed the money because he quit his job at a
power company to advise his son, who fired him in 1996.
Dominic was an emerging star after going 40-27-5 for the Flyers
in 1993-94 and 1994-95. Andre represented Dominic on his
$400,000 contract for the latter season and his $600,000 deal
with Philadelphia for 1995-96. Dominic says that his checks went
directly to Andre, who, according to Dominic, bought a new house
as a residence for himself and other real estate as investments
and lived off his son's wages. (Andre paid himself well above
standard agent fees, which range from 3% to 6%.) Having noticed
that appropriate shares of Dominic's salary weren't being
deposited in his bank account, Dominic and his wife, France,
began to question Andre. "I trusted my father more than anyone,
and I didn't believe he would do anything wrong," says Dominic,
"but when I asked him what happened to the money, he had no
Dominic took control of his finances and initiated legal
proceedings against his father that led to Dominic's gaining
possession of the three homes Andre had purchased. The rift with
his father left Dominic distraught, and his play suffered to the
point that in 1996-97 he had been demoted to backup for a
Flyers' minor league affiliate. His career rebounded when
Philadelphia loaned him to Team Canada for the 1997-98 season,
and he played well. He subsequently bounced from the Flyers to
the Predators to the Mighty Ducks, where he's in his second
season as backup to Guy Hebert. In July, Roussel, who was 2-1-1
through Sunday, signed a two-year, $825,000 deal, a contract
that was negotiated by his current agent, Ron Weiss.
Last summer Dominic was scheduled to meet Andre at a Montreal
diner in hopes of settling their dispute. Andre didn't show up.
"It was sad for me," says Dominic. "I wanted my father back."
ONE COLUMN TWO MANY
If you're among the legion of fans befuddled by the RT
(regulation tie) column that the NHL added to its standings this
season, you aren't alone. Even coaches, like the Flyers' Roger
Neilson, have expressed dissatisfaction with the new standings
format. Neilson, in fact, asked commissioner Gary Bettman to
Under the revised rules a team gets a point when it finishes
regulation time in a tie, even if it goes on to lose the game in
overtime. The league's goal was to make OT more offense
oriented--hence, more exciting--by not penalizing a team for
falling in sudden death. All that was fine. The snag arose when
it was decided that the standings would reflect the change by
crediting a club that loses in overtime with a loss and a
regulation tie, creating perplexing records. For example, the
Oilers were an unsightly 8-12-6-4 (the 4 is the number of
regulation ties) through Sunday, even though they were a .500
team, having earned 26 of a possible 52 points. To more
accurately reflect that, Edmonton's record should have been
expressed as 8-8-10.
Still perplexed? So are many other fans. The NHL should 86 the
RT ASAP and go back to plain old W-L-T.
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL Ziggy Palffy (left) and the rest of the Kings have taken to Murray's sloganeering.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO
COLOR PHOTO: BILL WIPPERT
WHOM WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE?
In 14 seasons Iron Mike, 50, whipped three teams into the finals
and won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers. His career record is
506-372-117, but he was 83-105-35 over the last four seasons
with the Blues and the Canucks, and he can be destructively
Now 41, he was Coach of the Year after guiding the downtrodden
Sabres to a 40-30-12 record in 1996-97. Nolan stepped aside
after that season amid disagreements with management. Some
prospective employers fear that he's difficult to work with.
The Verdict: Keenan's a bigger risk, but he just may have
another championship run in him.