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Kings Rookie coach Andy Murray doesn't want praise for Los Angeles's fine record (14-7-6-1 through Sunday), nor does he seek commendation for having helped the team overcome injuries to star forwards Luc Robitaille and Jozef Stumpel as well as a season-opening seven-game road trip. What Murray does want to hear is that L.A. is playing like a high school team. "That's a compliment," he says. "The same principles apply at every level: If your players are committed, you have success."
Last year Murray coached Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Faribault, Minn., which he guided to a 70-9-2 record and the Midget Triple A USA Hockey national championship. Eight months later he's in charge of a group that's burying the memory of a dismal 1998-99 season (32-45-5) by mustering the same intensity and consistency that were hallmarks at Shattuck.
Murray's credentials include having coached Team Canada to the gold medal at the 1997 world championships and having served as an assistant with three NHL teams. But when he interviewed with Los Angeles general manager Dave Taylor in June, Murray made a strong impression by launching into specific analyses of the Kings' shortcomings (lack of drive and discipline) and vowing to fix them by taking pages out of his high school playbook.
Murray, 48, was lauded for how openly he spoke with his student-athletes last season, and upon landing the Kings' job he won over his new players by visiting each of them—he flew as far as Finland and Austria—to talk about the team. Then, when the players arrived in training camp, they saw numerous slogans on dressing-room walls that Shattuck had rallied around last year, including CHAMPIONS DON'T JUST HAPPEN—THEY COME FROM WITHIN and THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND GREAT IS EXTRA EFFORT.
"It seems odd, but we like all the sayings," says L.A. wing Glen Murray (no relation). "It's a long season, and they help you focus for each game." The Kings have also embraced their coach's other methods, which include detail-oriented practices, calling out players for criticism at team meetings and a pregame stretching ritual in which players go around the room and talk about the game plan.
According to defenseman and captain Rob Blake, all of this has "infected us with great enthusiasm." That was heightened recently when Murray juiced an otherwise ordinary practice by allowing three youngsters from Shattuck to take part "After practice I asked the kids what they thought," says Murray. "They said we were just about at the Shattuck level. So I guess we still have some work to do."
Goalie Sues Father
Mighty Ducks netminder Dominic Roussel fondly recalls the childhood days he spent with his father, Andr�, on the frozen sheet outside their house in Hull, Que. Andr�, a former college goalie, shot pucks and tennis balls at Dominic, instructing his son and shouting encouragement. "He was a wonderful father," says Dominic, "until I started making money. Then I became a dollar sign to him."
Andr� and Dominic don't talk to each other any more. They are locked in a legal dispute that's scheduled to go to trial in Superior Court in St-Jerome, Que., a few miles north of Montreal, in the summer. Dominic, 29, is suing Andr� for approximately $250,000, money he says was siphoned from him between 1992 and '96 when Andr� served as Dominic's financial adviser and had his power of attorney. Andr�, who could not be reached for comment and whose lawyer, Mario Proulx, didn't return calls last week, is countersuing for about $1.5 million. Andr� believes he is owed the money because he quit his job at a power company to advise his son, who fired him in 1996.