Analyzing the Calgary Flames from the outside is a bit like a ship looking at an iceberg. You can see what you can see of the top of the formation: the product on the ice and what is said publicly by the team, but what happens in the locker room and behind the scenes is almost completely unknown. Bearcat Murray: From Ol’ Potlicker to Calgary Flames Legend, written by Bearcat himself along with George Johnson, breaks down this wall. It helps fans see what it is about this team’s culture that makes it so special, and the incredible role that Bearcat played in helping shape the franchise into what it is today.
Who is Bearcat Murray
Bearcat Murray was a lot of things to a lot of players. Officially, he was the Flames’ head athletic trainer from 1980 to 1996 and held the role despite being completely self-taught. Unofficially, he was so much more. An icon in the city, known for his oversized moustache and bald head, Bearcat is undoubtedly the only athletic trainer in the NHL to have his own fan club across North America. He was a personality on and off the ice, and the book reflects his incredible personality. It is no doubt why he inspired such a following.
Books in the hockey world have tended to take the personality out of the job, focussing instead on achievements and sentiments as opposed to the character on or off the ice, however Bearcat’s style shines through on each and every page. Whether it was a story about his younger days on the rodeo circuit as a jockey or navigating through the world of hockey with the Flames, what is evident is how much Bearcat cared about each and every person around him. It is no wonder why he is still associated with the Flames to this day as a community ambassador, and how much of an impact he has made to the sport in Calgary.
Even more than his impact on the game is the impact he made on the players, coaches, staff, media, and fans of this team, and that element of the story is captured throughout the book. Interspersed in Bearcat’s writings are segments written by former players and coaches of the team describing the impact that Bearcat had on those around him. Perry Berezan, who played five seasons with the Flames, perhaps described Bearcat’s role best when he said: “He was our psychologist, best friend, parent figure, and trainer. He was everything.”
Traded from the Flames prior to the 1988–89 season when they won the cup, the fact that Berezan can describe the role that Bearcat played on this team as poignantly as he did is a true testament to what makes him so special as an individual.
While he did his job with class and dedication like no other, it was the impact that he had in areas that were typically out of his scope that was so special. Through the 1980s, the Flames were still establishing themselves in the Calgary market, and developing their fan base. Bearcat was vital in helping the team connect with the community, and build out the fanbase.
Born in Vulcan and raised in Okotoks, Bearcat and his family have been integral members of the Southern Alberta community for decades. In his roles both with the Flames, as well as with other hockey teams across Southern Alberta, Bearcat filled every role from bus driver to snow shoveler, to coach’s right hand man, and everything in between. In each role, he did it with a smile, and the book describes his wholehearted love for the club.
What makes Bearcat Murray’s book special?
Bearcat Murray was the glue that held the team together. He was the everyman, the multiplug, and part of the development of the initial fabric of this organization. A member of this organization since it started, his insights into this team showcase a special side of the team: what happens within the locker room. It showcases an organization that treats each other like family, and one which values good people over the best people. This was echoed when GM Brad Treliving said this past summer that it is important to get the right people on the team.
More than that, it showcases the development of this franchise from the initial days to 1996, spending ample time on the Flames 1988–89 run to the cup. For many younger Flames fans, understanding this part of the team’s history is invaluable to the story of this franchise. Most Flames fans could tell you some names from the teams of the past, but this book speaks about them both on and off the ice. It recalls stories from the locker room of players like Lanny McDonald and Theo Fleury, and describes the people that they were away from the media.
Perhaps more than anything else, this is a heartwarming story of a man who embodied the Flames’ organization. Bearcat Murray’s autobiography is a human story of one man who did just about everything for the organization and its players. A man who was not an NHL player, yet was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009 for the impact that he made to the game. But what is more, all of it is told with the humble down-to-earth style that makes Bearcat such a special part of the Flames’ community. An absolute must-read for Flames fans.
Want your own copy?
Bearcat Murray is a Hall of Famer and iconic member of the Calgary community. In a new book, Bearcat shares stories and experiences of his journey from Ol’ Potlicker to legend. Preorder your copy with promo code “WINCOLUMN30” to receive 30% off! Click on the image above to be taken to the Triumph Books shop to get the Bearcat Murray book!