LEADER OF THE PACK - AT WORK AND AT PLAY
Murray Toews (born Dec. 20, 1967)
Historical, Social and Economic Context
Murray Toews was born in Grande Prairie - grew up on a farm six miles from the village of Wembley and twenty-three miles west of the city. Wembley is a rich farming area four miles south of Saskatoon Lake. The proud residents of Saskatoon Lake at one time challenged Grande Prairie to become the centre of business and commerce for the area but their dream of becoming a regional hub vanished when the CNR railway was routed through the town of Wembley. When Murray was born agriculture was the mainstay not only for the Wembley area but the entire region; although by that time oil had been discovered and the economy was becoming considerably more diversified. Murray attended high school in Beaverlodge, several miles southwest of his family home and as a ninth grade student there he met his future wife, Colleen, and her father Gerald Bonnett who was to become his mentor in the oil industry – the industry that became his profession as an adult.
The Toews farm and the surrounding area is located on remarkably fertile soil that has produced award-winning grain rich both in quality and quantity from its early settlement up to today.
Don and family friend Bruce Remple worked together on the farm for 22 years. Photo courtesy of Murray Toews
The area’s international reputation as the Grain Capital of the World was established by one of the early settlers, Herman Trelle. Between 1926 and 1934 Herman won 43 championships on the world stage for the quality of his wheat. Of interest to hockey historians is that the first written record of a hockey game in the Peace River country took place on Saskatoon Lake. An account of that game may be found in Episode #1 of One Hundred Years of Hockey at www.gphockeylegends.com. There is little doubt that names of participants from nearby Wembley in that game are recorded in the history of the early pioneers. Also, of interest to paleontologists throughout the world are the many dinosaur fossils that have been uncovered in a creek called the River of Death along the nearby Wapiti River. As a result of these discoveries, the internationally recognized Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum was built in Wembley in 2015 when the community’s population stood at only 1,156.
It was in this context that Murray grew up. His story features life on the farm where he was raised, a family that established foundations for his values and work ethic, and the location where his love of hockey was born – the dugout adjacent to their house.
Early Years: Of Family, Farming and Fun
“Nowadays kids get what they need and want right now. We always had to wait until birthdays or Christmas. I always remember my Dad bought my brother four pair of Munari boot skates, all in different sizes that lasted him from ages 6-10 years. They were the least expensive skates you could buy but on those cheap skates Tim became the best skater of all us boys. That’s just how it was back then. Dad glued hockey sticks back together again when they broke. He re-fiber glassed them using extra electrical tape along the bottom before taping the blade. We just made do with less back then.”
Murray, was a farm boy – he is proud of his hard working “homesteader parents”, Bev and Don,
fond of his three brothers who were pond hockey teammates and opponents on the farm dugout that served as their first rink. He is grateful for the rich earth surrounding the nearby village of Wembley that put food on their table. Murray can be seen as Wembley’s “Horatio Alger” the legendary lad from humble roots who experienced remarkable success due to his hard and honest work habits. He credits his success to a strong family bond that focused on hard work and getting every job done, and done well.
We might liken Murray’s journey in hockey to ten rungs of a ladder with each rung leading up to and opening new horizons. Given his leadership qualities and vision each rung of his ladder provided opportunities for him to influence and enrich the lives of others.