In Washington, D.C. on January 15, 1990, general manager David Poile decided the Capitals needed a change. Their coach, Bryan Murray, had just celebrated his 300th win (one of only seventeen coaches to reach that milestone). Bryan had begun coaching the Capitals back in 1981 and brought them to their first playoffs. Though they made the playoffs every season, they never advanced beyond the second round. Joining Bryan was his younger brother, Terry Murray, who played his final NHL season with the Capitals in Bryan’s first season as their coach. Then Terry worked as assistant coach under Bryan until 1988, when he was given the head coach position of the Capitals’ AHL affiliate team, the Baltimore Skipjacks.
The 1989-90 season began slowly but improved until the Capitals reached first place in the Norris Division. Multiple injuries took their toll and plummeted the Capitals down to last in their division, and they had lost the eight games leading up to January 15. Bryan commented, “It’s a very disappointing thing. We were in first place, and then we get five guys hurt. It’s pretty tough to win without your team leaders. That’s what’s so frustrating.” In Poile’s point of view, he said, “I felt we needed a change. We just didn’t have the consistency we should have. Not one player during the last eight games stood up and became a team leader.”
That change came in the form of Poile firing Bryan and replacing him with his brother Terry. Poile said at the announcement, “I’ve done a lot of pleasant things in my years with the Washington Capitals. This is not a very pleasant moment for me. I have relieved Bryan Murray of head-coaching duties and replaced him with his brother Terry Murray, the head coach of the Baltimore Skipjacks.” Even though they were brothers, Poile never considered anyone but Terry and called him immediately after informing Bryan. “When I asked him if he would be our head coach, he paused for a while. Then he said that he had been preparing and working all his life for the chance to coach in the NHL and, yes, he would take the job. I know he is disappointed that he is replacing his brother. But I didn’t get rid of Bryan because he was a bad person or a bad coach. I did it because the team needs a change, and I believe that Terry Murray is the change that’s needed right now.” The ousted Bryan commented, “I’m disappointed for myself, but I’m happy for Terry.”
That season, the Capitals finished third in the Norris Division and again could not make it past the second round of playoffs. Terry remained head coach until 1994 and then spent three seasons coaching the Philadelphia Flyers. Although he was fired, Terry returned to the Flyers as a pro scout in the early 2000s and then as assistant coach from 2004 to 2008. Terry then coached the Los Angeles Kings until 2011, just missing their Stanley Cup win in 2012. After coaching the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms, in 2015 Terry became an assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres. His NHL coaching record was 499-383-89-41 with a percentage of .557.
At his firing, Bryan had said, “At this moment, I don’t have a clue as to what I’ll do in the future.” He ended up taking the head coach position with the Detroit Red Wings from 1990 until 1993 and making the playoffs each season. The following year, he became general manager of the Florida Panthers and was the NHL executive of the year in 1996 (when the Panthers lost the Stanley Cup finals). Bryan coached the team in the 1997-98 season and then had his brother Terry take over as coach until 2001. For the next season, Bryan coached the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and then became their general manager until 2004. From 2005 to 2008, Bryan coached the Ottawa Senators, and he became their general manager in 2007 (the year he reached 600 coaching wins). Bryan finished his NHL coaching career with a record of 620-465-131-23 and a percentage of .563.
- Brian McFarlane, Brian McFarlane’s History of Hockey (Champaign, Ill.: Sports Publishing Inc., c1997), 239-242.
- James H. Jackson, “Capital account: Bryan Murray out, Terry Murray in,” Baltimore Sun, 16 Jan. 1990, p. 1E-2E.