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Kelly Murray Marvels in Sensational All-Canadian Season with UBC Thunderbirds

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With a fifth and final season of university hockey representing some of the most enjoyable and memorable milestones, such a season served to enhance Kelly Murray’s enthusiasm for the game. In several facets, Murray’s university career represented some of the game’s hallmarks, including participation in both NCAA and U Sports hockey, along with competition in the Winter Universiade, a world championship tournament for university athletes.

Perhaps the most cherished hallmark may be the fact that Murray is one of four fantastic sisters that have competed at the university level. Only adding to a legacy in which all four were also competitors at the renowned Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota.

Oldest sister Logan starred with Montreal’s McGill Martlets, playing for legendary head coach Peter Smith, while Eden and Madi were teammates at Yale University, donning the Bulldogs blue jersey. Their unforgettable run reflects the continuous growth that the game has seen in the increase of talented sisters competing, especially as teammates. On both sides of the border, there are remarkable stories about such sisters.

From a Canadian perspective, the Potomak sisters are both part of Canada’s centralization for the 2018 Winter Games, Bailey and Shelby Bram were teammates at the NCAA and Hockey Canada levels, Amy and Erin Locke are both program cornerstones with the York Univesity Lions, while Kristy and Kelly Zamora were the first set of sisters to capture a Clarkson Cup championship.

In the United States, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux (also Shattuck alums) are quite possibly the most famous sisters to grace the ice, making history as the first pair of twins to compete in the Winter Games. Worth noting, Chelsey and Winny Brodt are a pair of legendary sisters from the State of Hockey, both inaugural members of the Minnesota Whitecaps, and Clarkson Cup champions in 2010. 

No family in women’s ice hockey can boast both the outstanding quality of play and the quantity of siblings like the Murray sisters. Hailing from Alberta, they evoke memories of another famous hockey family from Wild Rose Country, the six Sutter brothers. Worth noting, the legend of the four Murray sisters is such that they were even the subject of a piece in The Hockey News, one of the game’s foremost authorities.

While the prologue to Murray’s university career took place in the NCAA, competing with the Ivy League’s Cornell Big Red, she would become part of a unique movement in the game’s history. Over the last three seasons, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (the former moniker of U Sports) allowed eligible players an opportunity to transfer from American schools and return “home” to resume their playing endeavors and studies. Taking into account that Canadian universities allow for five years of eligibility, compared to four in the US, many players exercised the option of a fifth year in Canada, simultaneously engaged in postgraduate studies.

Undoubtedly, this innovative concept has been embraced by a growing number of players annually. Such opportunities have now changed the complexion of recruiting, providing programs mired in the doldrums an opportunity to become competitive, altering the balance of power in their respective conference. Quite possibly the most successful of these transfer players during this formative and innovative time may be Murray.

In making the decision to transfer from Cornell to the University of British Columbia, it was an opportunity to tap into her family’s hockey roots. As Logan graduated from McGill in 2015, having played alongside the likes of luminaries such as Ann-Sophie Bettez, Katia Clement-Heydra, Melodie Daoust and Leslie Oles, the family legacy also extended to family patriarch Paul and their uncle Doug, who both competed at the Canadian university level. As a side note, Paul would play professionally in Europe.

In choosing the path to continue her career north of the border, Kelly consulted with her oldest sister and father, whose backgrounds in Canadian university hockey were essential in helping reach her decision.  Donning the colors of the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds, it accentuated a proud sporting heritage within their clan, which also saw their mom Kim take to the hardcourt as a competitor in basketball at Brandon University.

With Murray’s background at Cornell, where she displayed admirable character coping with concussion woes and a broken collarbone, she also played alongside a who’s who of women’s hockey, including Jessica Campbell, Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier, among others. Suiting up in 37 games over two seasons, the NCAA expeirence allowed her a unique perspective on the game, providing her with the opportunity to take on a leadership role upon her entry into UBC. As she reflects on the transition, she remains humble about such a leadership role, accepting it as part of the progression in her career.

“My sister Logan and my dad both talked to me about the quality of the league and the competition in the CIS (now U Sports) but I had heard from other people that the league was much stronger than it had been in the past and was growing exponentially stronger every year.

U Sports passing that rule that transfers from the NCAA did not have to sit out their first year definitely played a large part in my decision to leave Cornell. My time at Cornell might have had a part to play, but I’d definitely have to give a lot of the credit to my coaches at UBC for challenging me to take on a leadership role and working hard to help me develop my leadership skills.”

During Murray’s two seasons at Cornell, there was always a particular team that she was highly excited to compete against. With younger sister Madison donning the jersey of the Yale Bulldogs, a prominent Ivy League rival, it signified a unique aspect to both of their careers. Fittingly, the last points of Murray’s Cornell career came in a January 31, 2014 tilt with the Bulldogs, where she recorded a pair of assists, including the helper on the game-winning tally scored by Kaitlin Doering in the third period. As a side note, her sister Madison was part of Yale’s roster for that game, the last time that they would play each other at the NCAA level.  

For both sisters, the most emotional game as rivals was their first. Lynah Rink, Cornell’s home ice, served as the backdrop for an October 27, 2012 that saw them face off against each other. Although Kelly’s Big Red prevailed by a 3-2 tally, the unbreakable bond of love and respect between these sisters was the true story of this game.

After the final seconds in this very distinct game ticked away, signaling the game’s end, the two met at centre ice in the postgame handshakes. Such an emotional milestone certainly comprised more than a season highlight, but a cherished experience that these two tremendous sisters shall always preserve in their hearts.

“I was fortunate enough to play with all three of my sisters at different times throughout our high school careers, but having the opportunity to play against one of my sisters while I was at Cornell is definitely one of my favorite hockey memories from my time there.

During the game I tried to not focus on the fact that I was playing against Madi but after the game while we were shaking hands and she gave me a hug, I realized how special it was that we were both able to experience and play some of the most competitive hockey available to females, against one another.”

In making the transition to UBC, Murray significantly bolstering the Thunderbirds blueline, paying positive dividends practically immediately. Named a Canada West All-Star in both 2016 and 2017, such achievements were complemented by back-to-back appearances in the medal round at the U Sports national championships.

This season alone, Murray has enjoyed three terrific milestones. Getting the opportunity to don the Maple Leaf with Canada’s entry in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade, her season also culminated with a sparkling combination of First Team All-Canadian honors and the chance to be the top-seeded team at Nationals.

Wearing the Maple Leaf on her jersey at the Winter Universiade resulted in many emotions. From the outset, 2017 signifies Canada’s sesquicentennial, and the chance to represent Canada during such an eventful year only added luster to the experience. In addition, it allowed Murray to pay tribute to those who inspired her to take up the game.
Such inspiration was the result of a victorious moment at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games as Canada captured its first-ever gold medal in women’s ice hockey. It was a victory that proved to be the beginning of a golden generation for Canadian dominance at the Games. For Murray to get the chance to represent her country and emulate their successes was the culmination of a dream come true.

As a side note, her second cousin, Andy Murray was the coach of Canada’s national men’s team from 1996 to 1998, also taking the helm for two NHL teams. Andy’s daughter, Sarah, a third cousin for Kelly, competed with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. She was also be the head coach of the host country South Korea for women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, adding to the family’s impact in international hockey.

The road towards that cherished hockey dream at the Winter Universiade actually had its roots in the summer of 2016. Of note, the opportunity to be part of the summer selection camp in Calgary, which consisted of U Sports competitors, allowed Murray to build on some siginificant momentum. In the aftermath of the 2015-16 season, she was part of the Thunderbirds roster that qualified for the gold medal game at the U Sports nationals, a first in program history.

In addition, it also allowed for Kelly to call another sister a rival. With the summer selection camp being held at Hockey Canada’s training facilities in Calgary, it overlapped with the selection camp for Canada’s U22/Development Team. Eden Murray, who was part of Canada’s gold medal winning roster at the 2013 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships (where Edge School teammate Karly Heffernan joined her), was among the invitees for the U22 camp.

On August 9, 2016, an exhibition game between the U Sports All-Stars and Team Canada Red (traditionally, the U22 camps split into two teams during camp; Team Red and Team White) saw Eden’s side prevail in a hard-fought 3-2 final. Sisters Logan and Madi, along with mom and dad were all in attendance, beaming with pride.

As a side note, Kelly and Eden were once teammates at another prominent level of play. Suiting up for Team Alberta, they captured a gold medal at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.

Fast forward seven years later, and Kelly’s career took on new luster with the chance to be part of Canada’s roster at the Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan. One of eight Canada West players named to Team Canada, she was the only representative from UBC. Among Canada’s defensive unit, Alexis Larson from the Regina Cougars and Erica Rieder from the Manitoba Bisons joined Murray as blueliners from Canada West.

Statistically, her best performances were a pair of two-assist efforts in wins against Great Britain (14-0) and host country Kazakhstan (11-0). In the win against Great Britain, Murray’s assists came on goals by fellow blueliner Alexis Larson and Melodie Bouchard, while the victory against Kazakhstan resulted in third period assists on goals both scored by Alexandra Labelle. An 8-1 semifinal win against the United States saw Murray connect with Labelle again, assisting on a second period goal.

“It was such an amazing experience; the Kazakhstan people were all so friendly and welcoming and definitely were a big part of what made it so memorable for me. My sisters and I actually got into hockey after watching our women’s team win the gold during the 2002 Olympics, so to have the opportunity to pull that Canadian leaf over my head and play in the jersey that inspired my hockey career is an indescribable feeling and something I will always remember.”

Upon Murray’s return to Vancouver following a silver medal in Kazakhstan, the fifth consecutive time that Canada enjoyed a podium finish at the Winter Universiade, her presence was crucial for the nationally ranked Thunderbirds. As a push towards another appearance at Nationals encompassed the program’s focus, the Thunderbirds would capture the Canada West conference tournament title. During the postseason, Murray would score the final goal of her Thunderbirds career, one scored in grand fashion. Scoring in the third game of their postseason series with the Saskatchewan Huskies, Murray’s goal would stand as the game-winning tally, while clinching the series.

With the Thunderbirds earning the number-one seed at Nationals, another historic first for the program, it was also an opportunity for Murray to celebrate such a sensational season. Along with Cassandra Vilgrain, they were honored as UBC’s only All-Canadians. Of note, whenever Murray logged a point during the 2016-17 season, the Thunderbirds enjoyed a sterling undefeated mark of 14-0.

These two sensational competitors also share two others unique common threads. From the outset, Vilgrain is also an NCAA transfer, having played at New Hampshire. In addition, she is also a second generation player, as her father Claude once played for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. The second generation heritage held significant prominence for a jubilant Murray. While affirming her own status as one of the nation’s finest, it allowed her to connect with her family roots, as her uncle Doug also garnered All-Canadian honors during his playing career with the Calgary Dinos.

“Last summer I sat down and wrote out my short-term hockey goals for the year, and being named an All-Canadian was one of those goals. It did not hit me until my team had gotten back to our hotel rooms after the banquet, but I definitely got a bit choked up when I realized that I had actually achieved the All-Canadian status I had been working towards.

What also made it a bit more special was that my Uncle was named an all-Canadian during his playing career for the University of Calgary.”

Adding to the emotion of such an achievement was the chance to make her mark at Nationals. With the Thunderbirds competing against the Cinderella-team Concordia Stingers in the bronze medal game, Murray would make a significant and memorable contribution.


Logging an assist on a power play goal scored by fellow All-Canadian Cassandra Vilgrain in the first period, it would stand as the game-winning tally in an eventual 2-0 final. Considering said assist also represented the final point in Murray’s university career, it was the fitting denouement to such a sensation run at UBC, where she recorded over 50 points.

There is no question that Murray has the skills and composure to bring her fundamentally sound game to the next level and compete professionally. Whether she follows her father’s path and competes professionally in Europe, or looks at competing with her hometown Calgary Inferno, either route would bring with it a serendipitous sense. As another proud tradition in the Murray family includes its entrepreneurial acumen, having been involved in vehicle sales for four generations, whichever corridor Murray chooses to proceed through, there is no question that her positive attitude and strong values shall propel her towards further success.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Images supplied by Kelly Murray

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