Most of our communities, I would suggest, have their fair share of good people who earned the respect and admiration of others.
Antigonish is no exception.
That’s what came to mind last week when I learned of Ed Murrin’s passing at his home in the cathedral town. To simply say he was a favourite with his students during his 35-year teaching and administration career would be an understatement on my part.
The man was highly thought of by those he taught and, as it said in his obituary, he made an important impact on many lives. Former students, obviously grateful for his help, would drop by to say thanks. The obituary, as well, said he was always humbled by those visits.
On his beloved St. Francis Xavier campus, where he obtained his bachelor of education degree, he made another significant impression — as a talented defenceman on the university’s varsity hockey team.
Fact is, during the four years he wore his blue and white jersey, the Xaverians were enjoying their greatest era. He was a key member of the 1950-51 and 1951-52 championship clubs that were, in the minds of many, the two best intercollegiate teams ever in the Maritimes.
I only met Murrin a handful of times — years after his hockey days — but I had watched him play on a lot of occasions when I was in my early teens. He impressed me with his play and, in later years, he impressed me as a person. Maybe it was his hockey and teaching roles, but he used to remind me of our own icon in New Glasgow, John (Brother) MacDonald.
When I read of Murrin’s death — at the age of 88 — it reminded me of those two very talented and exciting Xaverian hockey clubs. In those two years, they played in intercollegiate ranks and the APC senior league. In those ‘50-51 and ‘51-52 winters, they won Nova Scotia and Maritime titles in both categories.
Because of their senior involvement, the Xaverians were well known to fans in Pictou County. They played a lot of games in New Glasgow and Stellarton.
And Murrin? From what I observed of his character and reputation, he was a team man. He would convince me to praise the club, not him.
The ‘50-51 X-Men won everything — the APC, Nova Scotia and Maritime championships in senior, the Nova Scotia and Maritime titles in university. Among honours that group received was induction into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1992.
It never seemed to matter which opponents the ‘50-51 powerhouse faced. They just won, and won, and won some more.
After sweeping through their intercollegiate opposition, they faced the APC’s first-place Stellarton Royals in the finals. Believe me, the Royals were good — with players like Frankie Prozenor, Leo Fahey, Al Legere, Mel Gadd, Nelson Wilson and Stan MacDougall — and most observers felt they’d teach the college boys a lesson.
The reality: The X-Men faced Stellarton eight times that season, and beat the Royals in all eight contests, including four straight in the championship round.
In the Maritime finals, they took care of the Amherst Ramblers four games to one, outscoring their senior foes 34-10. That put them in the Allan Cup quarter-finals against the Quebec champion Dolbeau Casters.
Overall, St. FX had a 37-11-2 campaign. The team was a scoring machine, piling up 317 goals — a 6.2 per game pace. They became the first team ever to win Nova Scotia and Maritime titles at both levels of competition.
What talent they had. Ed Swartzack scored 60 goals among 107 points, his brother Eugene posted a 35-40-75 line, while Jackie MacLellan added 40 goals and 96 points. And think of these added achievements by Ed Swartzack — seven hat-tricks and 32 goals in 16 APC games. Murrin? I can’t leave him out. Despite being on defence, he had 12 goals and 26 points.
Looking back, I recall enjoying the 1951-52 Xaverians even more — a season in which they played many of their games in Pictou County.
Things were a bit different that season. The X-Men weren’t in APC action during the regular schedule. Nonetheless, after repeating as Nova Scotia and Maritime intercollegiate kings, they qualified to play the survivors from the APC league. That was New Glasgow.
Those were the powerful Rangers coached by goaltender Jackie Gibson. No way were they supposed to lose – not with Fahey, Wilson, Legere, MacDougall, Kent Storey, Naish Batten, Tiger Mackie and Arnie Baudoux.
Guess what? The Xaverians defeated the Rangers 4-2 in games to repeat as provincial senior champs.
Next, St. FX was supposed to meet its match in the Maritime final — the Saint John Beavers. Instead, it was Saint John that was crushed, losing three straight games. A second Maritime senior verdict for the university.
That’s when the spotlight returned to New Glasgow. Because X’s home rink was too small for Allan Cup playdowns, the best-of-five series between the Xaverians and Pembroke Lumber Kings was moved to the Stadium.
If you were around, you’ll recall Pembroke won the round 3-1 — but St. FX held its own, tying one game, losing two others by one goal. The college boys had once again done themselves proud. And Ed Murrin? He was again a star on defence.
Ed’s hockey didn’t end on campus.
In 1956-57, three senior teams got together in an attempt to revive the APC circuit that had closed its doors. New Glasgow Rangers, Pictou Pontiacs and Antigonish Bulldogs played a short schedule. On the Bulldogs blue line was none other than Murrin. He was the top defenceman, scoring 12 goals and 22 points in just 14 games.
Yes, Murrin’s passing put me back on another memory stroll.
But I couldn’t help it. Those two St. FX teams he was on, in my opinion, were the two best the Antigonish campus ever had.