Burnside: Bob Murray back in the NHL, 3 months after his resignation for abusive and toxic behavior


It’s the kind of announcement that has become so commonplace over the years that it could have passed without batting an eyelid anywhere in the hockey world. Because it’s almost become a rite of passage for unemployed NHL executives to find themselves hired as scouts or advisors of one kind or another with another NHL club.

The jobs don’t usually pay much and they’re not, for the most part, seen as part of a team’s machinery, but are more often than not some kind of courtesy position, a nod to past relationships. which allows these people to stay in touch with the game.

Given all that, Wednesday’s news that former Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray had been drafted as a scout for the Calgary Flames could have been considered a trivial transaction in many ways.

Except Murray isn’t your average unemployed NHL executive.

In mid-November, just over three months ago, Murray was forced to resign as general manager of the Ducks and immediately enrolled in an alcohol abuse program.

The resignation was the result of an investigation by an outside law firm hired by the Ducks into Murray’s abusive and toxic behavior within the Ducks organization. The investigation was prompted by calls to an anonymous hotline set up by the NHL to provide employees of the league and its member clubs at all levels with a safe forum to report incidents of abuse or inappropriate behavior. . It didn’t take long for the outside law firm to find enough evidence to know that Murray could no longer remain in his position.

An anonymous Ducks source told Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff: “Working for Bob Murray was pure daily mental warfare. The abuses were endless. Crazy text messages to players and staff berating them for their performance and job security threats occurred with regularity. These were not one-time slip-ups or mistakes. They were regular explosions and eruptions.

Murray’s resignation was a highly publicized illustration that the program was an important instrument in creating a stable and inviting workplace around the game. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman again alluded to the program during his his speech to the media at All Star Weekend in Las Vegas, saying the calls keep coming in.

The Ducks and the league released statements at the time of Murray’s resignation reiterating that no form of abusive behavior was going to be tolerated at any level of the league.

« First and foremost, we apologize on behalf of the organization to anyone affected by Bob’s misconduct, » read the statement on behalf of owners Henry and Susan Samueli. « We expect every member of our organization to be treated with respect and will not tolerate abuse of any kind. »

The league echoed those sentiments with its own statement which said, in part, « there is no excuse and there is no place in our league for this type of behavior which was recently reported via the NHL Helpline ».

« We thank the Ducks organization for their prompt and appropriate response to the Hotline reports, » the statement continued. « The League and its clubs are committed to providing a safe and welcoming workplace throughout the NHL and will continue to take all necessary steps to achieve this goal. »

Now, less than four months later, Murray is back in the NHL. He reportedly participated in an alcohol abuse program and apologized to Ducks employees.

Murray didn’t immediately respond to a text message on Wednesday, but in November the veteran player and executive said via the Ducks, “I want to apologize to anyone affected by my behavior. I vow to make changes in my life starting with enrolling in a treatment program.

After this story was published, Murray reached out to say he was interested in talking, but out of respect for his new employer, he wanted to settle the matter with Treliving first.

Granted, the scouting games Murray will do for the Flames primarily in California is not an NHL general manager with the ensuing interaction with staff, players and coaches.

But there are optical issues at play here that give us pause.

For the people who made the important decision to call the NHL hotline about what had become an oppressive situation in Anaheim with regular outbursts from Murray, does that invalidate their experiences if Murray can just sign with another NHL club a few months later, albeit in a lesser role?

For people working for other teams or for the league, does Murray’s quick return to the NHL lessen the impact of the helpline and what it is supposed to accomplish to create and maintain an environment safe and stable work throughout the match?

Certainly, part of the dynamic of being able to report abusive or inappropriate behavior is that there are repercussions, that these perpetrators pay a price for their behavior.

Calgary general manager Brad Treliving is one of the most outspoken and open executives in the game. He said there was a lot of talk within the organization and beyond about the arrival of Murray on board.

First, Treliving had lengthy discussions with Murray about his personal health and his battle with alcohol.

Treliving said Murray acknowledged that the root of what happened in Anaheim was Murray’s drinking.

« And he realized he couldn’t do this anymore, » Treliving said Wednesday.

Following these discussions, when it looked like there might be a way to help Murray get back into the game, Treliving contacted the NHL and received permission from the league to offer Murray a job. .

From a purely practical standpoint, Treliving has known Murray, 67, for years and trusts his judgment when it comes to evaluating players.

« In my opinion, one of his biggest strengths, I think he’s been one of the best talent evaluators lately quite frankly, » Treliving said. « He’s one of those guys, his joy and strength lies in scouting, identifying and evaluating players. »

On a human level, Treliving saw someone who had been very good to him as a young NHL manager, who had made mistakes and paid a heavy price for those mistakes, and was now trying to work through those issues in his personal life.

Was there a way for Treliving and the Flames to help rebuild a career and a life?

“We all have challenges. We all make mistakes at some point,” Treliving said. « It’s easy to pick up a stone. »

Sometimes it’s harder to reach out, the chief executive said. And that’s what Treliving said the Flames did.

« He was a guy I wanted to help, » Treliving said. « Bob is a good person who has made mistakes. »

While Treliving believes Murray and his experience can help the Flames, « I think we can help him too.

Cynics, of course, will suggest that this is another illustration of the hockey alumni network at work and that there will always be a seat at the table as long as you’re part of this club – no matter what. what you did.

But Treliving strongly believes in the league’s efforts to provide a safe and welcoming workplace around the NHL, including the helpline. And he doesn’t think Murray’s hiring is in any way contradictory.

« I’m proud of the work environment we have here, » he said. « We know what won’t be tolerated here and Bob is very comfortable with that. »


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