PROVIDENCE, R.I. – As Brian Murphy can attest, there is definitely life after hockey. Or in his case, life after NHL hockey.
When the Dover, N.H., native put away his whistle after 32 years as an NHL linesman, it didn’t take long for him to find his next calling as the supervisor of men’s officials for Hockey East.
“It wasn’t something that I was expecting to happen, it just came about. But it’s just a great opportunity,” said Murphy, who got his start officiating college hockey games while a business major at the University of New Hampshire in the 1980s. “To me Hockey East is one of the best leagues in the world. I just love working there.”
Things fell into place shortly after the final nine games of his NHL career were cancelled by COVID-19, when Murphy met with new Hockey East commissioner Steve Metcalf to discuss the supervisor of officials job. Sitting six feet apart outside the Hockey East offices, the two discussed Metcalf’s vision of raising the bar on the league’s officiating efforts.
And who better to do that than one of only two Americans to have officiated more than 2,000 NHL regular season games, in addition to another 300 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including nine Stanley Cup Final series?
Given his history of working at USA Hockey officiating camps and his integral role in creating the Officiating Program of Merit, Murphy is in a position where he can continue to help develop the next generation of promising American officials.
“I don’t feel like I’m supervising men’s officials, I’m coaching officials, and there’s a big difference,” Murphy said after presenting at the 2021 USA Hockey Advanced Officiating Symposium here this weekend. “I really feel like on a national level we need to elevate officials. You can always get better. And I know in talking to the college coaches, they want us to get better.”
Murphy is helping the next generation of officials.
Even with an impressive resume, Murphy still had to prove himself to the college hockey community, something he’s been able to accomplish by creating an environment of transparency with coaches and attempting to standardize rule interpretations within the various Div. I conferences.
“Sure, my background helped, but what meant more was that I brought some new ideas and I brought a lot of energy,” Murphy said. “And the other thing that I brought to the league was transparency. Everything that I’m teaching the officials, whether it’s penalty standards or rule interpretations, the coaches see that same information.
“Now we are all working from the same canvas. I don’t think existed before and I think the coaches in the league appreciated that.”
With its member schools located within three hours of his house, the job has allowed Murphy to make a transition from living out of hotel rooms in NHL cities across North America to living home to be with his wife, Lisa, and closer to their two adult daughters, Casey and Shayna.
“I spent 4,400 nights in a Marriott hotel, and I had enough of hotel rooms,” he said. “This was a lifestyle change for me, which was critical. I was not going back into any situation where I had to go travel or do anything like that.”
The fickle New England weather permitting, he spends every Friday and Saturday night during the season attending Hockey East games, watching the action on the ice while adeptly clipping videos to share not only with his officials but with league coaches.
After more than three decades in the NHL, there are certainly things that Murphy misses about his past life. Mostly, it’s the people, like the security guard in Washington or the off-ice officials in other cities, many of whom he met through USA Hockey functions.
Having the season come to an abrupt end meant that Murphy didn’t get to share his final NHL game with family and friends at TD Garden in Boston. To him it would have been just another game, but he realizes what it would have meant to his those closest to him.
“I always felt that the last game was more for my family than it was for me,” he said. “So when I found out the season was cancelled, the first thing I did was to send a text to my wife, Lisa, and the girls. It was my daughter, Shayna, who texted back right away and said, ‘Dad, we’re good. We had a great time. It’s been a great run.’ So that made it a lot easier.”
When he looks back at how his NHL career ended, Murphy takes it all in stride, just like he did for 32 years. He never griped about the things he couldn’t control. He quietly and competently went about his job and appreciated every day. So missing the final few games of what will surely be a Hall of Fame career means little in comparison to what other have lost during these trying times.
A few nights before driving to Providence to be with 200 fellow officials at the Advanced Officiating Symposium, Murphy attended a ceremony in his town to rename an elementary school after a woman who had died during COVID.
“I think when you put it in that perspective, two weeks of an NHL career is not really that important,” he said.
“The thing was for me was I had done it for 32 years. And when you do something for that long, I was done. I pushed my body as far as I could. And there was really nothing left. And now I’m onto the next adventure.”