By Tim Kalinowski
CFB Suffield has a new base hockey coach. Paul Murphy comes to south east Alberta via Nova Scotia. He recently retired after 35 years in the military. Murphy has for decades conducted coaching clinics for Hockey Canada, and was recently inducted into the Canadian Forces Sports Hall of Fame. He has coached more skills clinics than any other coach in Canada.
Coming to CFB Suffield and BATUS, said Murphy, provided an irresistible opportunity.
“My son Capt. Ryan Murphy is finance officer on the base here,” Murphy explained last Thursday prior to the base’s sledge hockey fundraising game for United Way. “He actually gave me a phone call one day, and said: ‘Hey, Dad. You are getting out of the military and there’s a hockey job opening up here in Suffield and you should apply for it. So I did, not expecting to get it… It’s the first time outside of Royal Military College that the Canadian Armed Forces has hired a hockey coach to teach individuals how to skate and how to play hockey, and not just for the Canadian Armed Forces here, but also the BATUS group at Suffield.”
Murphy’s main responsibilities will be working with rec. hockey league and minor league hockey players at the Ralston Arena, with particular focus on BATUS soldiers and their families. Most of the time British soldiers posted to BATUS have a keen interest in playing this quintessentially Canadian sport, but have had little practical experience with the game.
“It’s an outstanding challenge,” he admitted, “but the British here have more heart and desire than most people. They are crazy for this particular game and they love it… The challenges are many, but I have only been into it for four days and already the comments have been extremely positive from the individuals on the ice, and their spouses in the stands watching.”
Soldiers, whether Canadian or British, are naturally rough and tough types of individuals, given their chosen profession. Murphy says it’s something both nations have in common on the ice as well.
“Some of them have told me they have seen Don Cherry’s Rock ‘em. Sock ‘em Hockey, and the really love that side of it,” he said. “They were watching the Medicine Hat Tigers here last Friday night, and there were two fights in the third period, and it really got them riled up in the stands. They are like the Canadians who go out and watch the games; they have that intensity.”
According to Murphy, the main part of his job is to make sure his students are comfortable getting on the ice, gradually improving their hockey skills and always having fun.
“The fear is out of their eyes now, from day one,” says Murphy with a chuckle. “And now they are really enjoying themselves. The bottom line is, challenge or no challenge, you’ve got to have fun.”
Coach Murphy also has a concrete goal in mind this year: To help his British players be more competitive against their Canadian counterparts at the base. The Canadians have generally had a big advantage in rec. play through the years.
“My job this year is to turn that around, and make these Canadians really play hockey,” he said.