The Seattle Kraken made their NHL debut on Tuesday. Tonight, it’s linesman C.J. Murray’s turn.
C.J. Murray will work his first National Hockey League game on Thursday as the Kraken visit the Nashville Predators. He’ll take the ice wearing number 68 alongside linesman Libor Suchanek (#60) and referees Ian Walsh (#29) and Pierre Lambert (#37).
“It’s really a dream come true,” Murray said earlier this week. “I’m very excited.”
Murray played college hockey with Nazareth University, picking up 24 goals, 23 assists, and 105 penalty minutes in 88 games. Once his college career ended, he made the jump to officiating:
George Roll, Nazareth’s head coach for nearly a decade, put him in touch the NCAA’s Supervisor of Officials, Jeff Fulton, who is based in Rochester. Before long Murray was attending officiating camps and combines. He later was accepted into an officiating development program through USA Hockey and soon thereafter was officiating for men’s and women’s college games.
Next came opportunities in pro leagues such as the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League. His career was put on hold in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he had made enough of an impression before that to earn his current contract, which calls for him to officiate 40 games in the AHL and 40 in the NHL for the 2021-22 season.
“I never really thought about the officials or watched them much when I played,” Murray said, “but now I watch game film to see what the officials are doing. I try to be a sponge and to be observant as to what the officials are doing.”
The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder credits his speed as one of his greatest strengths – one that will help him in stripes.
“As a player, that was probably the strongest part of my game,” he said. “I was probably average at everything else, but I could get up and down the ice.”
He also understands the importance of communication on the ice.
“Communication also is something that sets guys apart,” Murray said. “The best officials know who to explain things to coaches and players. The officials are constantly getting yapped at, so you have to be honest and have an answer.”
The 29-year old Pittsburgh native will learn all about that first-hand on Thursday night when he takes the ice wearing the NHL crest.
“Everyone has been very supportive and is very happy for me,” Murray said. “It’s almost like I need to be hit in the face and wake up from this dream.”