GLENS FALLS -- Terry Murray already knows what it feels like to be the opponent at the Civic Center.
Saturday, he’ll find out what it’s like to stand behind the home team’s bench as the new head coach of Adirondack Phantoms.
In his playing days with the Maine Mariners, the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate at the time, Murray frequently came here to play against the Adirondack Red Wings. Those visits didn’t allow for much time to explore the city.
“Only the hotel, the pizza place and the rink,” he said. The teams stayed at the Queensbury Hotel and players walked to and from the Civic Center, stopping for pizza after the game.
This time around, Murray already has a better feel for the city — though he has not yet checked to see if the pizza joint is still there.
This is Murray’s fifth stint with the Flyers organization. He’s been through it twice as a player and then was head coach of the Flyers from 1994-1997 and an assistant coach from 2003-08. This is Murray’s first return to the AHL ranks since coaching the Baltimore Skipjacks, then affiliated with the Washington Capitals, from 1988-90.
He said most of the job is the same no matter what level of hockey it’s at: Come to the rink, develop players, push them to the next level and try to win. At this level, it is a different kind of development though.
“There’s a very big change in approach when you’re working in the NHL and you’ve got a 10-year pro,” Murray said. “This is the fun part about it. This is what at the end of the conversations I had with Philadelphia, with (general manager) Paul Holmgren, this was the exciting part of the opportunity, working with young players.
“I really feel over the years of my coaching that development has been a strength, putting a team together has been a strength. This presents all those opportunities, and coming back to the Flyers was icing on the cake for me.”
Murray said he looks for players with strong character — he said that is the key word — who understand what it means to represent the Flyers organization and the Phantoms and who do all the right things to prepare themselves. And then he pushes them on the ice to be the best players they can be.
So far, the players have taken to it.
“The first thing I noticed is that he’s very demanding and I like that a lot,” left wing Eric Wellwood said. “He really pushes you and I think that’s great because a lot of guys can get complacent and that’s never good for your hockey career.”
Murray demands a lot but explains exactly what he is looking for, assistant coach Riley Cote said. There’s never an excuse not to know what’s going on, he said, because Murray lays out exactly what he wants to see.
Cote also said Murray is very accountable and holds all of the players responsible, not letting them cut any corners along the way.
“I think that’s what those guys missed a little — the accountability, just starting off laying down the law and the system and really pushing the guys to buy into it,” Cote added.
Murray’s vast experience helps, not only hockey experience but NHL experience. He has coached four NHL teams in 1,012 games with a record of 499-383-89. The players know Murray knows what it takes to play at that level and are thus willing to learn from him, Cote said.