In NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Sitting Down with…” we talk to key figures in the game, getting insight into their lives on and off the ice. Today, we’re featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray.
GRAVENHURST, Ontario — Matt Murray and the Toronto Maple Leafs came to this Muskoka resort, 110 miles north of Toronto, this week as part of a team-bonding exercise in preparation for the Oct. 12 season opener at the Montreal Canadiens.
Consider it a successful venture, especially for the 28-year-old goaltender who is entering his first season in Toronto and is looking to get used to his new teammates as he is with them.
Having faced many shots from Austin Matthews training camp, Murray had the opportunity to share a cart with the star Maple Leafs center during a team golf outing at the prestigious Muskoka Bay Golf Club on Tuesday. It was a great opportunity for the defending Hart Trophy winner, an honor that belongs to the NHL’s most valuable player, to get to know the newcomer better.
“It was cool,” Matthews said. “I went with ‘Murr’ and he was nice to chat with. He’s obviously a quieter guy, but we had a lot of fun out there messing around.”
Fun is something Murray hasn’t had much of in recent seasons.
He helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017, but has had some weak moments over the last three seasons, one with Pittsburgh, the next two with the Ottawa Senators. He went 35-36-8 with a 3.06 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in that span.
Murray was acquired by the Senators on July 11 with a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft for future consideration. It was an opportunity for a new beginning, an opportunity he embraces.
“I’m looking ahead,” he said. “I’m not looking back.”
In a 1-on-1 interview with NHL.com, Murray touched on a variety of topics, including his new teammates, playing in Toronto, closing the previous chapter of his career and how good he and the Maple Leafs can be.
First of all, how productive has this team experience been for you here in Muskoka in terms of getting to know your new teammates better? It must be nicer to play golf with Auston than to face shots from him in practice.
“I think that was the goal this week, give us some time together and get to know each other better. I was at the rink in Toronto weeks before practice started, so I spent a lot of time with the guys, mostly at the rink. Like I said, I’m here for a little bit, but this is different. It’s nice to get up on the golf course a little bit, have a few dinners together and get to know each other a little bit better.”
You come to Toronto after a couple of tumultuous seasons where the number of questioners continued to rise. How driven are you to silence the naysayers who claim your best years are behind you?
“I think there’s always something to prove. At this point, I’m still taking the same approach I’ve had since day one, and that’s trying to improve every day. One step at a time, one development at a time. That’s where the head is. me. That’s where my focus is. You can’t listen to external things; you have to keep your eyes on the prize.”
How difficult was your time with Ottawa, especially with the string of injuries you had, including the concussion?
“Injuries are part of the game and certainly collisions are the ones that are hard to avoid. I’ve had a few of them. Look, my time in Ottawa didn’t go as planned, I don’t think, but I’ve made no secret that you have to look forward . My focus is here now. That’s part of my past. I don’t care. Again, I’m just looking at the here and now. And right now, from a physical standpoint, I feel great.”
How do you maintain your confidence during such a period? Have you always had that belief in yourself that dates back to your childhood playing hockey in Thunder Bay? If so, how much does that help when you’re struggling as a professional?
“That’s all part of it. You’re going to go through adversity. Everybody on every team goes through adversity on a yearly basis. You’re always going to have a period of adversity. I think it’s how you respond to it. How you respond says a lot about the person and the player that you are, so it’s about taking things one day at a time. I know that’s a common cliché, but it’s true. That’s all I can really control. Other than that, I just try to focus on things that are within my power and don’t worry about the other stuff. Just try to do the best I can with the things I can.”
You are a native of Ontario. You’ve played in Pittsburgh and Ottawa, where hockey is a big deal. But what has it been like to be in the limelight that goes hand in hand with playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, even in your short time here?
“I’ve really enjoyed my time since I’ve been here. It’s a special place to play. I’ve said it a million times, they welcomed me with open arms from the moment I got here. A little bit of familiarity with some of the guys here, which helped . I’m just really enjoying it and I can’t wait to really start in a week.”
You and your goalie friend mentioned Ilya Samsonov, another newcomer to the Maple Leafs, have formed a good relationship. How was that? And, for that matter, how has it been reuniting with coach Sheldon Keefe and general manager Kyle Dubas, your coach and GM with Sault Ste Marie in the Ontario Hockey League from 2012-14?
“I’ve met Ilya and we get on well. We push each other, yes, but we also help each other. That chemistry is important in a goalkeeping line-up. As for [reunion]it’s always nice to be wanted.”