(Photo Credit: Hockey Card Database)
From being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 NHL Draft out of the illustrious Michigan State University hockey program (he led the Spartans to an NCAA National Championship that year) to a Stanley Cup Champion four years later with the unbeatable Edmonton Oilers (versus the beleaguered Boston Bruins, mind you, and clinched at the “Old Garden” as you can see in his goal-scoring clip below against a pad-stacked Andy Moog), Joe Murphy‘s hockey career — and destiny — seemed set for stardom.
But by the time he returned to Boston (now as a home team player) for a fight-filled cameo during the 1999-2000 season, he was literally fighting his own demons and was in a difficult personal and professional state of mind, according to his former teammates and coaches. While still a talented goal scorer, playmaker, and skater on the ice, it was his personality and pugilism off the ice — sparring with fellow players and criticizing team personnel openly and derogatorily — that often had him benched, and not just in the figurative sense. Years later, we would learn that the many concussions he suffered while playing the game proved detrimental to not only his career, but also his life and health. This may explain why he didn’t endear himself to the Bruins organization (or fans) that season and was subsequently traded after only 26 games. In an excerpt from an article in the Globe And Mail from February of 2000, here’s what Bruins brass had to say at the time about the behavior and attitude of a disgruntled and ostracized Murphy:
“The players have had enough and I have had enough. I don’t have time for [Murphy’s antics and lack of respect].”
— Coach Pat Burns
“Seeing [his insubordination] is not good for the younger players. We’ve suspended him and we’re looking to move him.”
— GM Mike O’Connell
(Photo Credit: Game Worn Auctions)
Murphy, as we know, did move on from Boston, but it is this moving story from TSN Originals that has put him back on the map, and not just in New England and Michigan, but all over Canada. In particular, Northern Ontario where he’s tragically been living homeless for quite some time. I strongly suggest you click on the link above to learn more about his historic and heartbreaking story — one all-too-familiar for hockey players and athletes who have dealt with head injuries or are currently dealing with them.
“Finding Murph” originally aired on TSN on August 21st, 2018. For more information on the NHL’s continued legal battles with concussion lawsuits (and victims like Murphy), see the Real Sports w/ Bryant Gumbel special below:
While in Boston, Murphy posted 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points to go along with 41 PIM — the majority of which, as expected, were for fighting. His career totals were 233G-295A-528P with 801 PIM in 779 career games. He officially retired in 2001 after playing parts of 18 seasons in the NHL with seven different teams, including the aforementioned Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in 1989-90.
(Photo Credit: HHOF)