Thursday

Dana Murzyn

Dana Murzyn was a highly touted draft pick who jumped directly from the Western Hockey League to the NHL. He was the 5th overall choice in the 1985 Entry Draft by the Hartford Whalers. Murzyn had just completed a 32 goal, 92 point, 233 PIM season with the Calgary Wranglers and had scouts drooling over him because of his size, toughness and point shot.

However Murzyn would never develop in to that well rounded bruising rearguard with an offensive flare at the NHL level. His major downfall was his skating. Simply put, he lacked the agility and lateral movement of an average NHL defenseman. His skating flaws were definitely highlighted once he reached the pros.

However Murzyn was still able to transform himself into a valuable commodity for 14 NHL seasons. How did he do that? By playing a hard working, hard hitting, honest game. He did much of the dirty work that make or break teams and that many players wouldn't do themselves. "Hank," as he was affectionately known as, was a punishing hitter. And although he rarely won a fight, he always showed up.

The Whalers gave up on young Dana after 2 1/2 seasons and traded him to Calgary, his home town. He was traded with Shane Churla for Neil Sheehy, Carey Wilson and the rights to Lane McDonald. In Calgary he developed into a sound defensive d-man. Unlike in Hartford, he wasn't expected to contribute offensively and was buried among a plethora of defenseman of high NHL quality.

1988-89 proved to be Hank's best season. First he scored 22 points, his best output since his days in Hartford. But more importantly he played an integral part in the Calgary Flames first Stanley Cup championship in the 1989 playoffs. Though he scored only 3 assists, Murzyn was definitely an unsung hero.

"I was a little surprised when I got traded to Calgary but coming home turned out to be great. I got to play on a really good team, we won a Stanley Cup and I had three and a half years of some great hockey and a lot of good memories," Murzyn told NHLPA.com about his memories as a Flame.

Murzyn was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 in exchange for tough right winger Ronnie Stern and minor league defenseman Kevan Guy. For seven years, he and Jyrki Lumme formed the top defence pair on the Canucks. They were a good unit, complimenting each other wonderfully. Lumme's free skating, offensive style with Hank's stay at home attitude created somewhat of a rarity in today's NHL - a defense pairing that stays together for a long period of time.

Murzyn made a pretty good living by clearing creases and blocking NHL shots. And while the fans may not have noticed or appreciated Hank's efforts, the players certainly did. Wayne Gretzky, for one, is probably happy to see Murzyn go. The Great One admitted on more than one occasion that he doesn't particularly enjoy playing against Murzyn. Murzyn somehow knew how to get under the skin of Gretzky, and wasn't afraid to rough him up a bit either.

Murzyn was a strong contributor in the Canucks 1994 Stanley Cup run as well. He played really well, even scoring 3 big goals. But he was scratched for most of the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers. It was the beginning of the end for Hank.

As the 1994 Canucks team rapidly depleted, Murzyn was asked to do too much. With the departure of Gerald Diduck and Jeff Brown, and the failed experiments with Leif Rohlin and Frantisek Kucera, Murzyn became perhaps the team's #2 or #3 blueliner, a role in which Murzyn shouldn't have been placed in. He's a perfect #5 or #6 stay at home guy, but once he's put into a role that his outside of his limitations, Murzyn's poor agility was really exposed and he had trouble being the same effective defender.

As a result, many Canucks fans booed Hank. Now the booing calls for an editorial comment! I could never understand this. Sure, he looked like a pylon out there to some of the league's better skaters, but Hank worked his butt off. No one, and I mean no one, gave more of himself to the team. He showed emotion and heart and always played that physical style that so few Canucks after 1994 wanted to play. Yet the fans booed him? They complained that the Canucks didn't work hard enough and didn't show enough heart, yet they booed the one player who definitely did do that? Hank, if you ever read this, on behalf of the intelligent Canuck fans, thank you for your work.

Murzyn suffered a serious knee injury in the 1997-98 season. He tore his ACL ligament and that ended his season. A bad knee on a bad skater is a bad omen for a player. Murzyn would return in 1998-99 and only play a handful of NHL games before he was waived.

"The way I look back over it, I've had a pretty good career," Murzyn said "I played on a lot of winning teams. I won a Stanley Cup [with the Calgary Flames]. I made a lot of friends and had a really good time doing something I love to do. If this is it, it's been a pretty good career."

Yes you did Hank. By the way, how did you get that nickname?

“That’s a pretty good story," said Murzyn, again to NHLPA.com "In Hartford, I think we played three games in four nights. Actually, it was three and a half nights as we had an afternoon game in Philly that we traveled in for. And they had a rather large team at the time and were doing extremely well throughout the league. So the guys were a little bit concerned with how the game was going to go that day and a little tense in the room. Then one of the guys started asking everybody what their parents’ names were and every one was getting a chuckle out of some of the names. And it came around to me and my dad’s name is Hank and my mom’s name is Celine. And they had just met my dad a few weeks before and they said I look way more like a Hank than my dad. They were talking about the little house on the prairie at the time and I’d have cowboy boots and chewing tobacco. So that just kind of stuck from there and everybody kept calling me Hank.”

Now, after 838 NHL games, 52 goals and 204 points, Murzyn has returned home to Calgary. He is in the butcher business, which is another serious interest of Dana's.

“I find it very interesting just how you can take an animal in it’s kind of raw form and break it down into something that looks good, tastes good and has been aged properly. And I definitely enjoy sausage making. It’s pretty creative when you take some ground beef or some game meat or pork or whatever you’re going to use and apply a recipe and somehow you end up with a great finished product. And I just find that intriguing.”

1 comments:

C-fanSince88 11:40 AM  

I for one loved Dana Murzyn and appreciated his efforts.

The thing about Dana was, there was no better teammate than guys like him. Not only was Dana willing to get his nose dirty, but he was always willing to step up and drop the gloves in defense of a teammate, no matter who the opposition was.

I saw poor Dana take plenty of beatings during his time with the Canucks - ugly losses to guys like Corson, Marchment, and even little Todd Harvey often had me wincing in sympathy for the big guy. But I always admired his spirit and his willingness to do the nasty stuff - he knew he would get hammered, but he did it anyways. When he won the odd tussle, no one was happier for him than me!

I think Murzyn's best season as a Canuck was 93-94 - he should have been a big part of that team that made it to the finals, but a knee injury kept him out for most of it, and Brian Glynn played so well as a replacement it was hard for Quinn to take him out and put Dana back in. I felt for him, but Murzyn never said a word or complained - once again, the perfect teammate, and I didn't like it when fans bood him either.

Every team needs a guy like Murzyn on it.

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