By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Like all hockey players growing up in New England, Dover native Chris Murray had the dream of playing in the NHL. After playing his junior hockey with the Cape Cod Whalers in 2002-2003, Murray, a puck-moving offensive defenseman, was offered a scholarship to play at the University of New Hampshire.
In 2003-2004, Murray's freshman season, the Wildcats held high expectations after falling one win shy of a national championship the previous year's Frozen Four in Buffalo (5-1 defeat to Minnesota).
Murray appeared in two games as a freshman for the Wildcats, who finished the regular season at 20-15-6. UNH fell to Michigan, 4-1, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
The following year in 2004-2005, Murray played in 34 games and recorded five assists. The Wildcats finished the regular season 26-11-5 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Regional. UNH defeated No. 3 Harvard, 3-2, in overtime, in the first-round, but fell to eventual national champion and No. 1 seed Denver, 4-2, in the regional final.
As a junior in 2005-2006, Murray played in 34 games, recording two goals and six assists and helping UNH to a 20-13-7 record. The Wildcats fell in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 1 seed Michigan State, 1-0.
In 2006-2007, Murray was elected an assistant captain for UNH and put together his most productive collegiate season by scoring nine goals to go along with 13 assists for 22 total points. The Wildcats finished the season 26-11-2 and won the Hockey East regular season title. Murray was named a finalist for the Walter Brown Award (best American-born college hockey player in New England), earned All-Hockey East Second-Team honors, and was named to the Hockey East All-Tournament Team. Unfortunately, Murray's collegiate career came to an end in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when the No. 1 Wildcats were upset by No. 4 Miami (OH), 2-1.
Playing minor league hockey is an absolute grind filled with 11-hour bus rides, changes in location, 6 a.m. bag skates and constant fighting, all with the hopes of one day getting the call to play in the NHL.
Almost immediately following the loss to Miami, Murray signed with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL, entering the pros early and appearing in one game towards the end of the 2006-2007 season. Murray's official rookie season in professional hockey in 2007-2008 was, by far, the craziest of his career. After starting the year in the East Coast League with the Phoenix Roadrunners, where he registered a goal and 13 assists in 45 games played, Murray was called up to the AHL to play for the Lake Erie Monsters. After appearing in just one game for Lake Erie, Murray was traded to the Springfield Falcons. After appearing in just two games with Springfield, Murray was again dealt for the third time that season to Albany River Rats, where he registered a goal and three assists in 13 games played.
Murray split time between the AHL and East Coast League again in 2008-2009, playing in 13 games for the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack and 53 games for the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers. He registered a pair of goals and 13 assists with Charlotte, to go along with three assists while playing for Hartford.
In 2009-2010, Murray began the year in the coast with the Trenton Devils, where he registered nine assists in 28 games played. Later that season, Murray was called up to play for the Lowell Devils (AHL), where he registered a goal and an assist in 18 games played. The following year in 2010-2011, the Devils moved from Lowell to Albany. Murray stuck with the Devils for their inaugural season in Albany, where he registered a goal and seven assists in 52 games played.
In 2011-2012, Murray again saw a split season between the AHL and ECHL. After registering a goal and an assist in 14 games played with the Charlotte Checkers, Murray was re-assigned to the ECHL where he scored 3 goals and registered 11 assists in 27 games for the Florida Everblades. This would be Murray's final season of professional hockey in North America.
After not playing in 2012-2013, Murray took his talents overseas to play for the Nottingham Panthers of the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in 2013-2014. Murray had, by far, his best season as a pro that year, scoring seven goals and adding 26 assists in 32 games played. Murray was then traded to Bietigheim-Bissingen SC of the German Second-Tier Elite League (DEL2). He appeared in six games for Bietigheim-Bissingen SC towards the end of 2013-2014 and registered one assist.
The following year, Murray stayed overseas, this time signing with Milan of the Italian A League. Murray registered 14 assists in 34 games played for Milan. Following the season, Murray retired from professional hockey. The Dover native and UNH alum now works as a field account executive at Comport Consulting in Boston.
Chris Murray never got the call to play in the NHL, but his journey throughout the hockey world is something to marvel at. It takes a special type of dedication to one's craft to play four years of college hockey, six seasons of minor league hockey for 12 teams, and follow it up with two years of pro hockey in Europe for three teams. Not a lot of people would have stuck with it for as long as Chris Murray did. We could all learn a thing or two from his story of resilience during this trying to time.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as game highlights, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram @flano0.