While there's the stereotype that most hockey players trade in their sticks for golf clubs over the summer, former Detroit Red Wing and Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Murphy prefers a little quicker pace.
“I enjoy car racing,” Murphy, a longtime resident of Birmingham, said of his decade-long hobby of amateur car racing. “I race in the 24 Hours of LeMans, where you're supposed to buy a piece of junk and get it up to safety specs. You have to build a roll cage and add a fuel cell. The car probably cost $500, and you spend $10,000 getting it up to that level of safety. I have a 1983 BMW that I've run for about 10 years. I spend a lot of time in the summer with it.”
Recently, Murphy was able to hang out with Team Penske IndyCar racer Josef Newgarden during Detroit Grand Prix's press day, where the hockey legend introduced the racer to the Detroit-born sport of 'fowling,” which combines bowling and football.
Prior to his racing interest, Murphy got his adrenaline rush on the ice, where he played 21 seasons in the NHL, winning back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1991, 1992) and the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998). Selected as the fourth overall pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, Murphy went on to accumulate the most points (76) and assists (60) of a rookie defensemen in the 1980-81 season; and became the fifth highest scoring defensemen in NHL history.
“Winning the Cup here in Detroit after the team had such a long dry spell, that was exciting for the city when we won. It's ingrained in the fabric of the city. You only get that in an Original Six city,” Murphy said, referring to the six original NHL teams –Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Montreal, New York and Toronto – from 1942 to 1967.
After retiring from the NHL in 2001, Murphy began providing color commentary for a portion of Detroit's West Coast road games for Fox Sports Detroit, along with former Wing Pat Verbeek. His duties expanded with the network until 2013, when he and the sports provider parted ways. This past Valentine's Day, the network announced Murphy was returning to Fox Sports Detroit for the 2018-19 season. He said they are now in contract talks for the upcoming season.
“It's a job that takes a lot out of you. I spend more time prepping than on the air. It's a lot to know what's going on in the league. Reading, watching and observing – that's the biggest, most time consuming part of the job,” Murphy said. “You have to be aware of the players in the system and what they are doing. You have to be ready to go three or four questions deep on every player in the system.
“Watching is the easiest part. I enjoy watching the Wings play. That's the easiest part of the job.”
Adding to interest for the team's upcoming season is the addition of fellow Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman, who is returning to the team as general manager, along with former teammate Verbeek, who will serve as assistant general manager.
The return of Murphy to the airwaves and Yzerman to the team marks a sort of homecoming for the former teammates, both who have lived in the area for decades.
“I've been in Birmingham for 22 years,” Murphy said. “I left home at 17 from Scarborough, Ontario. It's the longest I've lived in a place.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent