Iconic Calgary Flames trainer Bearcat Murray releases memoir

At times, legendary Calgary Flames trainer Bearcat Murray was the star of the show- a fleet-footed, sharp-witted man with a bushy mustache and personality far larger than his diminutive stature.

After all, how many NHL staff members boast their own fan club and membership in six different Hall of Fames?

But he could also be a fly on the wall and a confidante, working to heal the wounds of players who felt more like family than colleagues.

Some moments, like when Lanny McDonald found out he would play in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final, still send chills down the spine.

“When we got the news that he was playing, everybody was screaming and beating their sticks on the wall in the dressing room and everything, and Dougie Risebrough said to me ‘Bear, What’s going on? What’s all the noise?'” Murray recalled. “I said ‘Riser, it’s okay, settle down. We just won the game.”

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Bearcat Murray celebrates a Flames playoff win in 1989. NHL

It’s been a quarter of a century since Bearcat hung up his cleats, but at 88 years old, stories of his unbelievable life still flow as smoothly as beer from the Stanley Cup.

So, with a little arm wrestling, his son, Danny, convinced him it was time to write it all down.

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“People would come up to me and say, ‘Danny, you’ve got to get him to write a book, you can capture a lot of these stories so they don’t get lost’,” he said. “At first he didn’t want to do it, but while he was telling these stories you just couldn’t shut him up! He just kept going and going. It was a breath of fresh air.”

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Bearcat’s longtime friend and journalist, George Johnson was tasked with cleaning up the grammar and some of the saltier language.

“It was me and the old Bearcat like we’re back on the road in the 1980s and 1990s, just sitting there telling stories,” Johnson said. “Memories of different incidents that I remembered, like running out on the ice to help Mike Vernon in the playoffs against Los Angeles after Bernie Nichols had run him over and the Flames scored at the other end. Gretzky’s going absolutely ape because they’ve scored a goal.”

Johnson hopes fans will also see a side of the Ol’ Potlicker beyond the Flames- the one whose childhood in sleepy Okotoks was shaped by some of our country’s most trying times.

“It was the Dirty Thirties and the Depression was on and the guys would come in on the trains looking for work and Bearcat’s dad would send them down to the house and Bearcat’s mom would make these people a meal,” Johnson added.

“Then the World War started and we were all mixed up in that,” Bearcat recalled. “We had those ration books during those years. You couldn’t get food without them.”

Those ties to the area run so strong Bear knew he couldn’t leave – even when he was nearly scooped up by the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers before the Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary and the now-demolished Stampede Corral.

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Other figures from the WHA to the NHL pepper the memoir with their own stories of the self-taught trainer.

All are confident there will never be another person quite like Bearcat in the NHL- or anywhere in pro sports, for that matter.

“Now it’s just so specific, that one job he was doing is now 14 or 15 different specialties on the team. So it was unique,” Danny said. “That bond he had with the players, the friendships that he made with them, that would I would hope would continue.”

Bearcat Murray: From Ol’ Potlicker to Calgary Flames Legend is now available in stores and online.

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