Sources: DU Penrose Library, DU Hockey Alumni Association
Born on New Years Day 1916 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Murray would play in the NHL (Toronto, New York Americans, Detroit) before becoming one of the greatest college hockey coaches in history, amassing five National Championships at the University of Denver.
With the arrival of Armstrong in 1956, the University of Denver Ice Hockey Program began an era of unprecedented success. The man often referred to as “The Chief” came to Denver after a stint as the head coach of the Regina Pats junior team in Canada. The relationship with the Pats would serve him well as he repeatedly made recruiting trips to Canada to reload the Pioneers during the offseasons.
Murray saw the potential for championships at Denver. Not only were the facilities there but the citywide support as well. He wanted to see his Pioneers win the national title within three years but they won the championship in just two. Armstrong went on to lead the Pioneers to five national championships (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968 and 1969). On four other occasions his teams finished as the runners-up. His 11 Frozen Four appearances and eight WCHA regular season championships will withstand the test of time. In 1977 Armstrong retired but he had established a tradition of excellence that lives on to this day.
Under Armstrong's watchful eyes, the Pioneers hosted several high-profile international opponents at the DU Ice Arena. Denver tied the Soviet Union National Team 4-4 during the 1958-1959 season and beat the American National Team with a score of 7-5 in 1960. That same American National Team won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics that year. The 1960-1961 Pioneers team is widely regarded as one of the finest collegiate hockey team ever assembled. They finished with an incredible 30-1-1 record on their way to another NCAA Championship.
The Pioneers won another two NCAA Championships in 1968 and 1969. During those golden years some outstanding players wore the Crimson and Gold, including George Kirkwood, Bill Masterton, Jerry Walker, Marty Howe, Grant Munro, Keith Magnuson, Cliff Koroll, Craig Patrick, Jim Wiste, Jim Shires, Gerry Powers and Marshall Johnson.
Murray retired to Florida in 1977 and played golf well into his Nineties.
Murray Armstrong 1916-2010
In accordance with Murray’s request, there will be no funeral services. His family plans to scatter his ashes on his home golf course according to his wishes. Any of the hockey fraternity that wants to send a card or note to Murray’s wife/family can do so at 607 Mulligan Way, St. Augustine, FL 32080.
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL (December 8, 2010) -- Legendary DU hockey coach, Murray Armstrong, has died of complications, following a series of strokes. He was 94, just 24 days shy of his 95th birthday.
Armstrong coached the DU Pioneers from 1956 until 1977, amassing one of the most impressive records in college hockey history. His teams won five NCAA Championships and finished as runners-up four times.
After playing junior hockey, he played 9 years in the National Hockey League in the 1930s and 40s, finishing his career with the Detroit Red Wings. After World War II he then coached the Regina Pats until he was hired by the University of Denver.
When he arrived he promised to give DU a national championship in three years or he’d quit. He delivered on the promise in only two years.
Armstrong often said his proudest accomplishment was “all of the fine young men” whose lives he touched. He was in contact with many of his former players to the end.
In 2009, his former players created a book of “Murray-isms” – some of his sayings that live on. They called it “Don’t Think, It Weakens the Club.” Among his favorite sayings: “Excuses are for losers.”
He retired to Venice, Florida in 1977 where he pursued his other sporting passion – golf. He played the game regularly until 2010 when he was 94.
In 2000, he and his wife moved to St. Augustine, Florida, to be closer to his son and his wife.
Armstrong is survived by Freda, his wife of 68 years, and his son, Rob.
Memorial donations should be directed to: Community Hospice Foundation, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32257.