Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Murray Bannerman at Chicago Pop Culture Con.  Appearing courtesy of CSAC (Chicagoland Sports Appearance Connection), Murray greeted fans, signed memorabilia and heard plenty of people shouting his name (but more on that later).

Murray was selected in the 1977 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks and also in the 1977 WHA Draft by the Winnipeg Jets.  He signed with the Canucks and made his NHL debut in the 1977-78 season by playing 20 minutes in one game.

In 1978, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks as the “player to be named later” from a 1977 trade which sent veteran Blackhawks forward Pit Martin to Vancouver.  After two seasons with the New Brunswick Hawks, Murray joined the Blackhawks for the 1980-81 season.  The Blackhawks traded backup Mike Veisor to Hartford, paving the way for Murray to join the Hawks as Tony Esposito‘s backup and seemingly his successor.

Murray would go on to play 288 games over 7 seasons with the Blackhawks.  He had 8 shutouts and compiled a 3.83 Goals Against Average.

He played primarily for the Baltimore Skipjacks, along with a few games for the Saginaw Hawks, during the 1987-88 season>  He retired after that season.

Following a Hall of Fame (and very popular) player in “Tony O” had to be a challenge.  Murray pointed out the advantages and disadvantages.  On one hand, he played with Esposito for four seasons, which allowed him to learn under one of the best.  Espo knew his time was winding down, do that was never an issue.  Additionally, Murray slowly took the lead goalie position, finally getting the most playing time in the 1983-83 season (Espo’s last).

On the other hand, the Hawks had Hall of Fame goalies for the most part since the 1957-58 season (Glenn Hall and Espo).  That is quite a legacy to continue.  The fans had high expectations for the new goalie.  Also, the Hawks of that era were not exactly world-beaters.

To many fans (as evident by the aforementioned name chant), Murray is a bit of a cult-figure due to Blackhawks‘ announcer Pat Foley’s famous call of “Baaaaaaaaaannerman,” when he made a great save.  It added to the fun for Murray, as fans still greet him with that exaggerated version of his name.  Not many players get that response 30 years after retiring.

For whatever reason, there always seemed to be a new goalie on the scene during Murray’s time with the Hawks.  Youngsters like Darren Pang and Warren Skorodenski, along with veteran Bob Sauve were brought in to challenge Murray.  This created a bit of uncertainty in goal, as the Hawks searched for the next standout goalie.  (That would be Eddie Belfour, who debuted in the 1988-89 season.)

While the situation hurt continuity, the competition was fuel for each goalie.  You never knew who would be the starter and when you would play.

Overall, Murray had a solid NHL career.  He is fifth on the Blackhawks‘ all-time goalie list with 116 wins and 288 games played. He is also fourth on the all-time Blackhawks‘ goaltender playoff statistics list with 20 wins and 40 games played.

Murray resides and works in the Chicago area.  He still follows the Hawks and has many great memories of his time wearing the Indianhead.  He fondly recalls the intensity of the fans back at the old Chicago Stadium.  “That place really rocked,” he states.  He specifically mentioned the rivalry with the old Minnesota North Stars, especially in the playoffs, as being a highlight.

As far as today’s players and game, he hopes that they realize what a privilege and honor it is to play in the NHL.  He hopes they have the same respect for the game as he was taught.

While not a dominant starter, he mostly bridged the gap between HOF’ers in some lean 1980’s seasons.  In an organization which boasts HOF goalies in Hall, Esposito, Belfour and Hasek, it is impressive that Murray still holds a special place in the hearts of fans.   He might owe a little of that to Foley, though.  I know, I’ll never forget “Baaaaaaaaaannerman!”

 

John Wroblewski

John Wroblewski is a freelance writer, who covers the Rockford IceHogs and writes general interest pieces for Puck Planet. His writing career really started over twenty years ago, as a guest columnist for a Chicagoland community newspaper group. John has written several articles for Global Traveler magazine, along with being a regular online contributor. In 2008, he started Johngy’s Beat, a site focused on meeting celebrities, athletes and pop culture icons. His Johngy’s Beat YouTube channel has over 800 interviews. Currently, John regularly covers the IceHogs, the Chicago Bandits (National Pro Fastpitch), the Chicago Bliss (Legends Football League), Resistance Pro Wrestling and many comic cons around the country.

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