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CWHL Tribute: Kelly Murray | Calgary Inferno | 2019 Clarkson Cup champion

Belonging to one of hockey’s greatest families, the 2018-19 season allowed Kelly Murray a number of cherished milestones, burnishing the narrative of her professional sojourn, simultaneously affirming her sparkling legacy in Western Canadian female hockey. Adding the cherished culmination of the Clarkson Cup was part of a much richer narrative, contributing a heartwarming element that simultaneously enriched the Cup’s lore.

Enhancing the nostalgia in this narrative, Murray enjoyed the opportunity to call her younger sister, Eden, a teammate in the professional ranks. Having both played in the Ivy League, Murray skating for a pair of seasons with the Cornell Big Red, before earning All-Canadian status with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, Eden enjoyed 98 appearances with the Yale Bulldogs, amassing a respectable 70 points, on the strength of 45 assists.

Selected in the eighth round with the 42nd overall pick of the 2018 CWHL Draft, the acquisition of Eden marked the second consecutive season that a member of the celebrated Murray family was among the CWHL’s Draft Class. In the 2017 edition of the Draft, Kelly was a second-round pick; claimed with the 12th overall pick, also to the Calgary Inferno, part of a draft class including Kelty Apperson, Taryn Baumgardt, Kayla Gardner, Sophie Shirley and Lindsey Post, among others.

Eden and Kelly Murray during their Ivy League years with Yale and Cornell

Although older sisters Logan and Madison also played at the university level, Logan capturing a Golden Path trophy with the McGill Martlets, while Madison also donned the Yale jersey, it was Kelly who was the first among her sisters to make the transition as a professional.

Starting the season playing for head coach Shannon Miller marked a unique series of linkages in the Murray family legacy on the ice. Of note, their cousin, Sarah Murray, played for Miller at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Serving as head coach for the Korean Unified Team at the 2018 Winter Games, which was also the 20th anniversary of the first women’s ice hockey tournament at the Games, it marked a unique instance of six degrees of hockey separation. Back in 1998, Miller was in the capacity of head coach for Canada’s contingent, who qualified for the gold medal game.

Having been teammates once before, both skating for Alberta’s entry in women’s ice hockey at the Canada Winter Games, a quadrennial sporting event, it marked a seminal moment for Kelly and Eden. Part of a championship group that bested Ontario for the gold medal at the 2011 edition of the Games, the Alberta roster also included goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer, another future player for the Inferno.

Kelly and Eden Murray sharing in the jubilation of the 2019 Clarkson Cup championship

“Getting to be on the same team as Eden was so fun. We seem to have a tendency to win championships when we play on the same team. The first time being in 2011 at the Canada Winter Games, winning a gold medal with Team Alberta. Playing with Eden meant that I had someone around every day who almost knows me better than I know myself.

Having someone around constantly that you are so close with, means that there will inevitably be some disagreements or minor arguments, but that is all part of the process. That was definitely the moment I cherish the most from this past year, getting to take that picture with Eden while holding the Clarkson Cup.

It was just that moment where we looked back and realized that everything that happened in the past year, good or bad, helped us to get to that moment where we got to hold that trophy.”

Congratulatory cake adorned with the Calgary Inferno logo

The Murray sisters belong to a family that possesses sensational sporting roots, dating back to their grandmother Mildred, who twice captured the Manitoba Rose Bowl Women’s Championship (1968, 1971), captured a national curling championship with Mabel Mitchell’s team in 1983, gaining induction into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

The bloodline of sporting excellence extended to their father, Paul, an alum of the famous Flin Flon Bombers, who joined the University of Calgary team in 1979, enriching the experience of Kelly and Eden playing for Calgary’s entry in the CWHL. Meanwhile, their Uncle Andy, a former head coach for the Los Angeles Kings, captured a trio of IIHF World Championships in a coaching role for Canada. As a side note, Kelly skated for Canada in the Winter Universiade contested in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In addition, their mother, Kim, competed in varsity basketball at Brandon University. The glory of the Clarkson Cup championship only augmented the Murray’s contribution to sporting Canadiana.

Kelly Murray in Canada’s jersey at the Winter Universiade

Defeating Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the 2019 Finals, the third time in four years that these on-ice titans clashed for one of the biggest prizes in hockey, it signified a major milestone for the proud sisters, capturing another championship in their second run as teammates. With an unbreakable bond between these celebrated sisters, the chance to hoist the coveted Cup alongside her sister, lifting it as high as she could over her jubilant shoulders, her victorious visage defined by a highly discernible smile, it marked a milestone that shall be treasured throughout perpetuity,

“It was a special feeling getting to hold the Clarkson Cup in my hands. The hockey roots run deep in my family, so getting the opportunity to be the first professional Murray female hockey player was so special. And then getting the opportunity to win the equivalent of the Stanley Cup in women’s hockey a year later, alongside my best friend and sister Eden, was an indescribable feeling.”

Kelly Murray (far right) and her sister Eden to her direct left, joined by other Inferno teammates in recognition of their Clarkson Cup win at a pre-game ceremony hosted by the NHL’s Calgary Flames

Among the hallmarks of two terrific seasons spent with the Inferno, Kelly also donned the highly popular purple Do It for Daron (DIFD) jersey for a series of mental health fundraisers. Rekindling memories of the first phase of her collegiate career, when the Cornell Big Red hosted annual fundraisers for the commendable cause, (Morgan Richardson, Daron’s older sister, also skated for the program), that feeling of unity and compassion held just as much meaning as a professional.

Considering that Big Red alum (and Inferno teammate) Brianne Jenner skated for DIFD in the collegiate and professional ranks, the mission of increasing mental health awareness was one that brought tremendous purpose for Murray, proud to utilize the platform of hockey to start a positive conversation. Worth noting, Alyssa Gagliardi, who played at Cornell from 2010 to 2014, would also champion the cause of DIFD when she joined the Boston Pride, helping organize a fundraiser with that organization.

“Getting the opportunity to participate in any mental health or DIFD game is very special to me. At Cornell, the DIFD foundation and hockey games were something our whole team took to heart. So, getting another opportunity to play in recognition of DIFD with the Inferno was definitely memorable. Mental health is something that I have had to personally deal with, so getting the opportunity to help de-stigmatize and start conversations surrounding mental health is always something that I take very personally and seriously.”

Murray donning the Bell Let’s Talk wool hat for mental health (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/ubcwhky/status/821888321479524352)

With the abrupt closure of the league following the postseason, the sense of shock and disappointment had ramifications throughout the hockey community. While the future of the Clarkson Cup remains in doubt, whether it becomes a hockey artifact, a retired relic akin to the Avco World Trophy (WHA), Patterson Trophy (PCHA) or the Turner Cup (IHL), or transitions to another eventual league, extending its prestige, all who experienced the honor of winning it shall never forget its significance.

Another honor that adds sheen to Murray’s time in the Inferno colors is the fact that she gained the unique opportunity of competing professionally, representing a team in her home province. Having played for Calgary’s Edge School during her teens, along with a stint at the esteemed Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota, Murray was definitely a home-grown talent, reaching an athletic zenith with the Inferno.

“Having the opportunity to put on that CWHL jersey in my home province for the past two years is something I will never forget. The opportunity for anyone to get to do what they love and what they are passionate about is always significant.”

Murray’s future in the game sees her making the trek across the Atlantic, having signed with Sweden’s SDE HF as a free agent. An amalgamation of Stocksunds IF, Danderyds SK and Enebybergs IF, SDE HF is based in Enebyberg, Sweden, a suburb of Stockholm. Enjoying another unique sporting connection with her father’s hockey career, who played professionally in Germany with the club Sonthofen ERC during the 1981-82 season, the international element to her unfolding narrative involves a linkage to her CWHL heritage.

Former teammates Kelty Apperson and Lindsey Post are among a crop of Inferno talents that have aligned with SDE, creating a unique phrase on social media: #SDHL – The Inferno continues burning at SDE. Also joining this tremendous trio is Jacquie Pierri, a member of the Inferno’s first Clarkson Cup championship team in 2016. Other notable free agent signings for the club include Amy Budde, who logged over 100 career points with Lake Forest College, while Felicia Bjälvegård, a native of Gränna, Sweden who starred at Vermont’s Castleton University continues her hockey journey domestically.

Although there is an understandable feeling of mourning regarding the CWHL’s dissolution, within those streaks of sadness lies a tinge of optimism. Reflections incorporating a tremendous sense of fulfillment in reaching such a vaunted level, ruminating on friendships made, even an aspect of levity, the experiences acquired leave a lasting impression.

While Calgary shall always hold a cherished place in Murray’s heart, site of some of her proudest achievements, perhaps most notably, the chance to be a role model for a young generation of aspiring players eager to achieve their own glories, the passion for the game can never be extinguished.

“When our league folded, I think all of us were sad because we had lost that opportunity to pursue our passions at a professional level. But even more so, I think we all felt the most sadness for all those little girls that would come to our games, hang over the glass for fist bumps, and come down for autographs after games.

Yet, the opportunity for those young girls and boys to have strong empowered athletic female role models to look up to and aspire to be like, whether they were hockey players or not, is the greatest loss for the Inferno in my opinion.

I will miss the city, and the support from all our fans. I will miss the locker room, and 7 am practices where some girls are half asleep and the other half are bouncing off the walls. I will miss the road trips, and the hilarious stories that went with it.

Whether it was accidentally leaving Decker behind at the hotel on our first trip to Montreal this season, or some people getting so worked up in spikeball or soccer during pregame warmup. It is those memories that mean the most. To win the whole thing, the absolute high of highs, to our league folding a couple weeks later, which was the lowest of lows, it has been a rocky couple of months.

After seeing the support that exploded from across North America after the CWHL announced that it was folding, it gives me hope for both my future as a professional hockey player, and for the future of all those little girls who stood at the glass cheering us on, or around the autograph tables with wide eyes and big smiles. This fight for our future, it is for them.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

All images supplied by Kelly Murray unless otherwise stated


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