Postmedia NewsNew Canadiens George Parros and Douglas Murray have more than a few things in common.
They are both 33 years old and were both selected in the eighth round of the 1999 National Hockey League entry draft, Parros going to the Los Angeles Kings with the 222nd overall pick and Murray to the San Jose Sharks with the 241st pick.
They both played university hockey in the United States and both were captains of their teams. And they both graduated from their Ivy League schools, Parros with an economics degree from Princeton and Murray with a degree in hotel administration from Cornell.
In 2010, The Sporting News ranked Parros — who had a 3.18 grade-point average and a 1,250 SAT score while at Princeton — at No. 4 on its list of the 20 smartest athletes in sports. The only three athletes ranked ahead of Parros were major-league pitcher Craig Breslow, who has a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale; National Football League player Myron Rolle, a Rhodes scholar with a master’s degree in medical anthropology from Oxford; and MLB pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, who has a degree in operations research and financial engineering from Princeton.
Murray and some of his friends from Cornell invented UberTap, a hands-free, three-spout beer keg tap, and he is a co-founder and managing partner of Uber Dispensing Co. When asked a couple of years ago by Ian Walker of the Vancouver Sun how he earned the nickname “Crankshaft,” Murray replied: “Long secret story. A fun trip with some guys on the team about four years ago and I guess I keep on going pretty strong. That’s all I’ll say about that.”
GQ did a Q & A feature on Parros in 2011 and called him “The Most Interesting Man in the NHL.” When asked how he started his famous moustache, Parros replied:
“I was always fascinated with the guys in the NHL in the ’70s and ’80s. There’s always been a strong connection between moustaches and hockey players, and the guys back then had some incredible facial hair. My ‘stache was kind of an homage to them and it’s turned into the greatest marketing tool for me. It’s taken on a life of its own.”
Parros has already become a favourite with Canadiens fans. The final scrimmage at the Habs’ rookie camp in Brossard on Monday was delayed for a minute or so while the regular Canadiens skated across the main practice rink to get to the secondary rink for an informal skate. The only player who received a round of applause from the fans in attendance was Parros, who flashed a big smile from behind his famous moustache.
And when the regular Canadiens held their practice with no coaches on the ice, it was Parros who was drawing up the drills on the board and giving the instructions.
Parros and Murray have both beaten the odds as eighth-round draft picks to enjoy long careers in the NHL while earning millions of dollars. Parros, who had only 119 penalty minutes in 111 games during his four years at Princeton, learned how to fill an NHL role by dropping the gloves. In his final season in the American Hockey League with the Manchester Monarchs in 2004-05, the six-foot-five, 224-pounder had 247 penalty minutes in 67 games.
Despite questionable foot speed for a defenceman, the six-foot-three, 240-pound Murray used his strength and hockey smarts to get to the NHL.
“He was physically dominant at the college level … that was his strength,” recalled Mike Schafer, who is entering his 19th season as the head coach at Cornell. “He was physically dominant, a great teammate, great leader … great in the locker-room with the players.
“During his four-year career, he got better and better every year,” Schafer added on Thursday afternoon. “What makes him special is his competitiveness. He’s not the flashiest player in the world, but he’ll block shots … he’ll do everything he possibly can to win.
“Anyone who’s played against him is well aware of his physical strength. He’s big … but there are a lot of guys who are big. But the fact he’s so competitive and has great hockey sense … you just figured that despite his limitations he’d figure out a way to play in the NHL.”
Earlier this year, Murray — who was a two-time first-team all-American during his university career — was one of 12 new members selected for induction into the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame.
“His feet were always the question mark for him as a player,” Schafer said. “But if you really study him closely, he puts himself in great position … it looks ugly at times, but his hockey sense and his competitiveness make up for it. He puts himself in great position to block shots or defend or contain. With his physical strength, if he gets a piece of you you’re not going to continue.”
Schafer was asked if he has a favourite Murray story from the defenceman’s days at Cornell that he could share.
“I have lots of stories about Dougie,” Schafer said with a laugh.
“He got slashed on the hand during one game and it chopped the tip of his pinky off. As he came to the bench and the trainer was looking at it, he was still screaming at the guy that he was going to kill him. He told the trainer just to tape it … his whole focus was not on his hand, but was on the kid that he wanted to go after. That just kind of shows how tough he is and how competitive he is as a player.
“He’ll be great for Montreal,” Schafer added. “True hockey fans will understand what he’ll bring to the table. He’s a great teammate and a tough guy to play against.”
Sounds like something else Murray has in common with Parros.
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