The career of one of sport's great eccentrics may have come to an end.
Joe Murphy was suspended indefinitely without pay by the Boston Bruins yesterday. Officially, the reason was insubordination, but unofficially Murphy's value as a left winger could no longer let the team put up with his eccentricities.
In recent weeks, according to Bruins sources, Murphy had taken to telling both his teammates and head coach Pat Burns where to get off. He was also said to have questioned his teammates' work ethic, which did not win many friends considering Murphy's checkered National Hockey League career.
The final straw apparently came in Tuesday's game against the Ottawa Senators. Murphy, 32, played just one shift in the first period, and did not appear for the last two periods. He told a reporter after the game he wasn't feeling well.
"This has been going on for a while," said Burns, who declined to give specific reasons for the suspension. "The players have had enough and I have had enough.
"It's a matter of respect [for the head coach] I've got to get our team ready for games. I don't have time for [dealing with Murphy]"
Boston's assistant general manager Mike O'Connell, who was Murphy's roommate when they played for the Detroit Red Wings in the late 1980s, said his days as a Bruin are finished.
"If you're going to run a hockey club, this just can't happen," O'Connell said. "Seeing this is not good for the younger players.
"We've suspended him and we're looking to move him. He won't be part of our hockey club."
O'Connell would like to trade Murphy, and says he's talked to a few teams, but the player's reputation is such that a deal is unlikely. The Bruins are Murphy's sixth team in his 14 NHL seasons. In 26 games with the Bruins, Murphy had seven goals and seven assists.
Murphy, a native of native of London, Ont., was not at the FleetCenter when Burns announced the suspension and could not be reached for comment. Pat Murphy, his father and one of his agents, said they will file a grievance through the NHL Players' Association. The Bruins contend Joe Murphy has violated his contract through insubordination, and the matter will likely end up in arbitration.
Those who know Murphy say he ranks with the best of sport's eccentric athletes, like football's Joe Don Looney, baseball's Bill Lee and Dennis Rodman of basketball notoriety.
Murphy was taken first overall in the 1986 NHL draft by the Red Wings, which is considered one of hockey's bigger mistakes. While he never realized the achievements expected of a No. 1 pick, Murphy did have some respectable seasons. He scored more than 20 goals seven times and won a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990. His best season was 1991-92 when he scored 35 goals for the Oilers.
But it was stories about his unusual behaviour that overshadowed his accomplishments as a player. Even when the Bruins signed him as a free agent last November, it was surrounded by controversy.
Despite the fact he scored 25 goals for the San Jose Sharks last season, no NHL team offered Murphy a contract last summer.