Bob Murray and the Everchanging “Hockey Culture”

The NHL’s hotline expansion may have been met with skepticism but already appears to be a potential solution to the league’s PR crisis in its first use case with Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks.

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Bob Murray was recently fired from his position as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

Gary Bettman was rightfully crushed for his lack of a response to a majority of questions hurled his way amid the Chicago Blackhawks’ scandal that played out back in October. One of the few questions he answered was about the changes to the hotline teams could use if there were inappropriate actions within the organization. Now, the hotline was open to people across the hockey community, not just those in the National Hockey League.

Of course, they turned around and contradicted that by denying John Doe two and his family funding for therapy. But shortly after, the new hotline did exactly what it was supposed to do, with Anaheim general manager Bob Murray being put on leave and then resigning from the team because he fostered a toxic work environment.

Murray has been the Ducks GM since 2008, taking over for Brian Burke after being his right-hand man for three seasons, one of which ended in a Stanley Cup trophy. He was the league’s third-longest tenured GM, only behind Nashville’s David Poile and San Jose’s Doug Wilson, and was bringing in a new era of Ducks hockey in year three of a difficult rebuild. Now he is gone, with VP of Hockey Operations Jeff Solomon taking the interim role.

One prior incident showed Murray’s short temper. Back in 2009, the Ducks were playing the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs when, after a loss, Murray threw a chair in his box. The chair inadvertently hit a woman, 42-year-old Rachel Paris, who later sued Murray and the Ducks. Paris was a stage manager for a television broadcast at the time and sustained injuries that cost her that job.  Murray did not have to pay any monetary damages. 

This most notably comes on the heels of the Blackhawks scandal. But it also takes second billing in sports headlines to the current situation happening with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns owner Robert Sarver is being investigated for harvesting a toxic workplace as well, although he has not taken a leave of absence yet. 

The Murray news dropped out of nowhere and he is the first person to lose his job due to the Blackhawks hotline. Given what many have said about the toxicity of “hockey culture,” there is a possibility he might not be the last. Minnesota’s GM Bill Guerin was in hot water last week as well due to an incident from his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. American Hockey League head coach Clark Donatelli assaulted Erin Skalde, wife of assistant coach Jarrod Skalde, on a team trip to Rhode Island in 2018. The case was dismissed and settled out of court shortly before the Murray news came down. Precedent would say that Guerin, the assistant GM at the time, would have been safe. 

Bob Murray now joins the ranks of Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Bill Peters as those who will never work in the league again. His brash personality was on its way out regardless, but the NHL’s new protocols weeded him out before a terrible situation ensued. Bettman and the league deserve credit for this situation, as does Ducks ownership.

The hotline expansion was met with rolling eyes, but it seems to have worked as intended in its first public case. On the surface, ownership appears to have done the right thing. They quickly escorted Murray out the door and supported his decision to enter an alcohol abuse program. We do not know whether they knew about the abusive actions before last week, but for now, they look quite competent.

While we await further details, if any arise, the league will continue to fight against what has been a nightmare season from a PR angle.