Florida Panthers

Bryan Murray, former GM and coach of the Florida Panthers, loses cancer battle

Bryan Murray makes his coaching debut with the Florida Panthers at Miami Arena on Nov. 26, 1997.
Bryan Murray makes his coaching debut with the Florida Panthers at Miami Arena on Nov. 26, 1997. Miami Herald file photo

Bryan Murray wasn’t always fond of the Florida Panthers but he sure loved to talk about the glory days of the franchise, most notably the incredible rat-fueled run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.

Murray was the second general manager in team history, taking over for Bobby Clarke after the inaugural season ended in 1994 and oversaw a Florida team which shocked the sports world by making it to the Finals in just its third year of existence.

“That was,” Murray said last season, “as much fun as any of us had in hockey.”

Murray, who eventually made peace with the Panthers after he and his brother Terry were fired in 2000, died on Saturday after a long bout with colon cancer.

Bryan Murray was 74.

“Bryan Murray was a great teammate and very important to this franchise in its early days,” team founder Bill Torrey, who hired Murray, said in a statement.

“The consummate professional. That’s what he was.”

Tweeted original Florida winger and current broadcaster Bill Lindsay: “Deeply saddened with the passing of Bryan Murray. Huge part of our success in South Florida. Touched a lot of lives.”

Among the many moves Murray made with the Panthers in his six-plus seasons: drafting Ed Jovanovski and Radek Dvorak; trading for Pavel Bure, Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen; and trading the likes of Dvorak, Jovanovski and Stu Barnes.

Murray also coached the team for a time.

After firing popular coach Doug MacLean due to a slow start in 1997, Murray took over behind the bench.

Although the Panthers didn’t rebound and make the playoffs, they did score a franchise-record 10 goals in Murray’s debut against the Bruins.

He went back upstairs after hiring his brother Terry to coach the team. Both were fired a few months into the 2000-01 season.

The Panthers made the postseason three times under Bryan Murray and just twice since.

In 1998, South Florida coaches Jimmy Johnson, Pat Riley, Jim Leyland and Bryan Murray stand together with 10-year-old Michael Fernandez at the fifth annual Make-a-Wish Foundation of South Florida Sports Banquet & Memorabilia Auction at the Signature Grand in Davie. Alan Freund/Herald Staff Miami Herald file photo

Before coming to South Florida, Murray coached the Capitals (1981-90) and Red Wings (1990-93); he was also Detroit’s GM from 1990-94.

After leaving the Panthers, Murray served as GM of Anaheim (2001-04) and Ottawa (2007-16). He coached the Ducks (2001-02) and Senators (2005-08) as well.

All told, three of his teams — the Panthers, Ducks and Sens — made it to the Stanley Cup Finals under his watch.

“Bryan Murray's strength and character were reflected in the teams he coached and the teams he built over decades of front office excellence,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

“While his warmth and dry sense of humor were always evident, they were accompanied by the fiery competitiveness and determination that were his trademarks.”

Said Sens owner Eugene Melnyk: “Bryan was one of the greatest men that the game of hockey has ever known and also a great father, mentor and teacher.”

George Richards: 305-376-4995, @GeorgeRichards