Murray Oliver

Murray Oliver was a natural athlete. Murray actually turned down an opportunity to play professional baseball in the Cleveland Indians system, instead opting to further his development in the other sport he loved - hockey. Playing with his home-town Hamilton Tiger Cubs of the OHA, Oliver was named the Red Tilson Memorial Trophy winner as the OHA's Most Valuable Player in 1957-58. He later went on to the Edmonton Flyers of the WHL for a year and a half before being promoted to the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings.

Murray's stay in Detroit was relatively brief. He appeared in parts of two seasons, scoring 31 goals and 31 assists for 62 points in 103 games. While it was short it was definitely sweet for Murray as he often got to center a line with his boyhood idol on right wing - Gordie Howe!

In January 1961 Oliver, Gary Aldcorn and Tom McCarthy were sent packing to Boston in exchange for Vic Stasiuk and Leo Labine. It was in Boston that Oliver became a league star. Using his quick feet and smart playmaking skills, the small center was a consistent scorer and hustling worker who fit in nicely in Beantown.

He topped the 20 goal plateau and 40 assist mark on three occasions with the Bruins, who were a weak team in the 1960s until the arrival of Bobby Orr late in the decade. Playing on the B-O-W line with Johnny Bucyk and Tommy Williams, Oliver's 1963-64 season saw him scored 24 goals and a career high 68 points, good enough to finish 7th overall in scoring. "Muzz" was the Bruins leading scorer in the 1965-66 season with 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists) as well.

Oliver's production slipped to just 9 goals and 35 points in 1966-67. The Bruins, who were looking to get bigger and stronger, traded him to Toronto for Eddie Shack. Muzz played 2 years in Toronto before he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars in exchange for Brian Conacher and Terry O'Malley.

Murray played 5 more years with the North Stars before he found himself out of a job. At the time agents negotiating contracts on behalf of players was a pretty primitive and new practice, one that wasn't warmly welcomed by the NHL teams. Having brought in an agent to negotiate a contract for the first time in his career, the Stars balked at Oliver's request for a 2 year contract and upped and left the negotiating table, leaving Oliver looking for a real job.

Murray stayed very active in hockey after retiring. Initially he got into a sales position with a hockey stick company, thanks to friend Lou Nanne.  Three years later Nanne became general manager of the Minnesota North Stars, hired Murray as an assistant coach. He even filled in as head coach part way through the 1982-83 season.

A good penalty killer, Murray was one of the few bright spots in Boston immediately prior to the arrival of Bobby Orr. He also was a bright spot in the early days of NHL hockey in Minnesota.


Anonymous,  4:36 PM  

Sorry to hear that Murray died today.

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