‘My parents were told later in the evening that my injury was permanent'
By Lyle Carter
Watching a junior hockey game was top of mind when I entered the Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex last week in Brookfield.
That would quickly change.
Approaching the area of the visitor's dressing room during the pre-game warmup, I struck up a conversation with Kevin Murphy, owner and general manager of the visiting Eastern Shore Mariners.
His heart-touching story is one that should be retold.
Born in Dartmouth in 1970, Murphy moved to Musquodoboit Harbour when he was seven. He played lots of sports, soccer, softball, tennis and, of course, hockey.
On March 17, 1985, Murphy, then 14, was playing hockey for the bantam Mariners when a serious injury changed his life.
"I had had one clear goal in mind up to that time," Murphy said. "I wanted to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
"But I sustained a spinal cord injury during the Cole Harbour minor hockey tournament in the championship B final. It left me a C5-6 spinal cord injured quadriplegic."
Murphy was the starting right winger that day and the game wasn't more than a minute old when the accident occurred. There was no other player involved.
"It was a very innocent play," he said. "I went in on a partial breakaway and after shooting the puck I was making a sharp turn and lost my balance. Now on my knees, I was sliding at a fast clip towards the end boards.
"I was in between being up and being down. As I slid sideways, my hip and my shoulder hit the boards first. My head, only inches behind, was tipped to the left when it hit the boards. That's when I suffered the injury to my spinal cord. I had a broken bone in my neck."
Murphy never lost consciousness but said he felt like pins and needles.
"My parents were told later in the evening that my injury was permanent. They learned that I would never walk again."
A number of weeks in the hospital followed with the projected prognosis for rehabilitation being two years.
Murphy credits his family and friends for tremendous outreaching support. And, displaying unbelievable will power and determination he made his own projection.
"I checked myself out of the rehabilitation centre after three months," he told me. "It wasn't that I was Superman or anything for I had no movement in my legs or arms and I couldn't speak. I made the choice to get back to my own community. I knew I had to go on."
Murphy completed high school and then attended Saint Mary's University, graduating in 1992 with a bachelor of commerce degree.
The Kevin Murphy Hockey Fund Program was introduced in 2008 whereby a bursary is awarded annually to an outstanding young athlete. Visit Kevin's website at www.kevinmurphyhockey.ca for more information.
Murphy has also been a motivational speaker over the years while lecturing occasionally at Dalhousie University.
He owns and operates a business directory in Mineville, Halifax County, which is distributed to 24,000 homes monthly.
"Our hockey club has quite a few ties to Truro," Murphy reminded me. "Our coaches, T.J. Smith and Shane Nolan, both played for the Truro Bearcats and recently forward Jordan Cox joined our team after playing two seasons with the Bearcats. I have a number of relatives living in Truro."
Murphy said that his father, Ralph, a longtime goaltender, grew up in Truro. His grandparents, Clarence and Jean Murphy, lived at 18 Brunswick St. for many years.
Smith, in his second year coaching the Mariners, is also accounts manager for Murphy's company.
"I am happy coaching and working for Kevin," Smith said. "I know his family, his wife Stephanie and daughter Rachael and son Jackson well. We spend a lot of time together. Kevin is a good owner and general manager and he leaves the coaching to our coaching staff."
The hockey game produced end-to-end action and the Elks and Mariners were deadlocked 3-3 after regulation time. Eastern Shore won it 4-3 as Cox scored the winner at 1:31 of overtime.
It was indeed quite a night. Besides some great hockey, I was inspired by Murphy's battle to overcome adversity.
Lyle Carter's sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.