Reporting from Philadelphia — Terry Murray has many fond memories of the Philadelphia Flyers' last Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1997.
"Everybody is a Flyer fan, and there's just an incredible amount of energy that's brought to the city and to the building," said Murray, then the Flyers' coach and now coach of the Kings. "It was a great experience."
What most hockey fans remember, though, is Murray saying his team was in a "choking situation" after it lost the first three games to the Detroit Red Wings. He meant that his young, inexperienced team wasn't prepared for that predicament, but the word "choking" raised a red flag and he was let go after the Flyers were swept.
The Flyers respected him enough to bring him back as a scout and then as an assistant coach, and he worked with many of the players who have led the Flyers back to the finals this spring. He's proud of an association that began when he played defense for the Flyers in the 1975-76 season but knows his unfortunate remark probably will outlive his other contributions.
"It wasn't the appropriate thing to say at that time," he said Thursday by phone from his summer home in Maine. "It's kind of a part of the development process that you end up going through, but certainly I think I should have used a different way of talking about it, whether it's 'deer in the headlights' or whatever it might be.
"I think when it comes down to using the word 'choke,' then that's something the media can throw out there and can write about it or talk about it, but it certainly should not be coming from within the organization, especially from the head coach.
"It's something I said and it's there and I don't think it will ever go away. Still, at the end of the day it was a pretty fun time to go through and get to the finals and experience it all."
The current Flyers brought excitement back to Philadelphia with a 4-3 overtime victory Wednesday that cut the Chicago Blackhawks' series lead to 2-1. Much of the Flyers' core was assembled during Murray's term as an assistant, and he recalled seeing Mike Richards' grit and Claude Giroux's raw talent.
"It's exciting to watch, knowing those players very well personally and knowing how they've battled through the pain of figuring the game out at the NHL level, becoming real good players in the NHL," Murray said. "As we've used the word many times in L.A., it's a real process that these young guys go through, and they're getting rewarded for all that hard work that's been going on over the past five, six years."
After seeing the Flyers' strong finish in Game 3, Murray is sure they can get on a roll.
"The opportunity is there for them now to just carry through with that momentum and get the series tied up," he said.