Rung # 7 – The Hockey Coach
Earlier it was noted that Murray sometimes mused about what might have happened if he had continued on his trajectory in hockey as a coach especially when he reflected on the fortunes of his friends Mike Babcock, coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Bill Peters the Calgary Flames head coach.
Murray, Mike Babcock, Stanley Cup winning coach of the Detroit Red Wings, and Bill Peters, coach of the 1980 Memorial Cup Champion Spokane Chiefs, with the Cup.
Photo courtesy of Murray Toews
Regarding crossroads choices in life, one can see Murray’s decisions reflected in the words of the poet Robert Frost in his poem The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.
Perhaps even more relevant is a quote from Ljupka Cvetanova’s book, The New Land.
Do not go where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no trail and leave a trail.
Don’t think for a moment that Murray chose an easy path. While on rung seven he was straddling three – maybe four ladders - working at and learning a demanding job, husband and father of three - two active daughters and one son - coaching and, assuming executive responsibilities in local hockey organizations. We focus here on his coaching contributions – a dizzying assignment.
Upon first returning to Grande Prairie Murray joined Simon Jukes to coach his younger brothers Greg and Jeff who were on the city’s Midget AAA teams.
Murray Toews got right back into coaching with the Midget Dragon Palace Knights after returning to Grande Prairie
In Wembley in the early 90s Murray coached an Atom team that included his daughters Muranda and Carlee aged six and five along with Tim’s niece, Averyl every second year until they reached grade twelve. He coached a league winning co-ed team that played in an All Peace League. Murray proudly comments, “We saw a lot of development with these kids from not even knowing what an offside is or what a left edge is to some good hockey skill. ” We had a tremendous triple A girls team and program as well in Grande Prairie. Coaching at these levels has made me realize what a professional coach must have to give up, like Bill Peters with a young family. I got to be with my three kids throughout their minor hockey careers almost every day whereas an NHL head coach loses that. They are lucky to see their kids skate three times a year let alone be a coach for them.” Murray also coached Ty, his youngest when his son played first in Wembley as a Novice and Atom and then Pee wee and Bantam in Grande Prairie. At present Ty is playing Midget Storm AAA hockey in Grande Prairie with Chris Schmidt as his coach.
Ty, Carlee ( Scruff) , Muranda, Colleen, and Murray maintaining the family pond hockey tradition
Murray, Muranda and Carlee(Scruff) with Norwich University Division 3 NCAA championship trophy
If you remember the 1994-95 NHL hockey season that wiped out the NHL that year. Murray contacted his friend Bill Peters ,who at that time was assistant coach of the Detroit Red Wings, and Bill agreed to visit Grande Prairie for a week to tutor coaches and players in the city’s’ minor hockey programs. “Imagine”, reported Terry Ferrell of the Herald Tribune, “Being 12 years old and having an NHL coach, wearing his team gear, shouting encouragement to you, high-fiving you or feathering cross-ice passes to you as you skate down the wing.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What’s your opinion? Did Murray take the right path when he determined to return to his roots? As reported above shortly following his return to Grande Prairie he was quoted, “It was a fun time getting into coaching and doing the oil patch stuff. … The business was developing so - it was the right call for me to be home with my wife and starting a family.” Thankfully it was a good decision for Murray. It was certainly fortunate for Grande Prairie.
Rung # 8 – The Business & Hockey Executive
It is apparent from Murray’s development as a hockey player that he was a leader among his peers. More often than not players and coaches alike chose him as team Captain. Both on the ice and in the dressing room players looked to him for advice and motivation. He was good at assessing both situations and individuals. As a coach he was meticulous about setting goals and then motivating his players to attain those markers. We are not as familiar with the application of these traits in his capacity as an executive in business but it is reasonable to assume that the leadership skills he groomed in hockey transferred to the business world. Murray was also fortunate to be the recipient of good mentoring – in hockey from the likes of Ken Head – in business from father-in-law, Gerald Bonnett.
Currently the CEO of Bonnett’s Energy Services Ltd., Murray began working for Gerald as a shop hand during the off-season in hockey. From shop hand he graduated to wireline operator, field sales, dispatch manager and General Manager. It is presently a private corporation with Mill City Capital: a private equity partner, described as a multifaceted service company offering a full range of well intervention and optimizing services. Clearly Murray’s success in business is a testimony to his leadership abilities, the same abilities he demonstrated while playing hockey as captain of many teams, later as a coach and serving on numerous boards and committees – too many to itemize here. A few examples serve to indicate the scope of Murray’s contributions to local young people.
For six years Murray served on the Peace Female Athletic Club that governed Bantam AA, AAA, U16, Midget AA and AAA programs. Currently he is a board member for the female PFAC, a program that is important to Murray remembering that his daughters moved on from there to play hockey the OHA in the women’s WJHL. From there Muranda went on to Norwich University, a division three school and graduated with her nursing degree. She won a National championship at the NCAA level in her last year. Carlee played in the University of New Hampshire, just outside of Boston at the division one level.
Murray’s most recent contribution to hockey in Grande Prairie pertains to the role he has played in rescuing the Grande Prairie Storm.
Murray Toews and two Storm players Nate Morgan, left, and Nate Bierd who are billeted with the Toews family. Photo by Stan Neufeld
Murray Toews and Storm coach Matt Keillor. Photo by Stan Neufeld