Murray Armstrong, renowned long-time University of Denver hockey coach, ranked first in the nation with hockey coaching victories for active coaches, and second in all-time coaching records. The Pioneers – during Armstrong’s eighteen-year tenure – went to the NCAA hockey championships eleven times, and won five titles.
Armstrong spent several years as a center in the National Hockey League, playing for Toronto, Detroit and the New York Americans where he was a NHL scoring leader. Only World War II (where he served with the Canadian Army) interrupted his career.
He served as player-coach of the Dallas team of the Central League, and then took his position with DU.
In 1960-61, Armstrong developed what has been called one of the greatest college hockey teams ever. The team won thirty, lost but one and tied one, taking the WCHA and NCAA titles in the process. In his last seven seasons, his teams finished no lower than second.
He has produced eighteen All-Americans and dozens have joined the pro ranks, but he is most proud of the fact that few of his players ever failed to obtain a college degree. Armstrong insisted that his players be students first and athletes second.
Armstrong reflected on his “moments” in sports, which he categorized in three ways – the “early moments”, the “team moments” and his “greatest moment”.
“At one’s very beginning, his first goals – base hit, body check, double play or home run – which resulted in the first actual tastes of athletic accomplishment have to be the greatest early moments at that time.”
Armstrong also recalls that while progressing through the various stages of amateur and professional leagues up into the National Hockey League, there had to be and were countless numbers of great personal moments. “As a coach for over thirty years, there were ‘team’ moments which one was able to share and enjoy with enthusiastic groups.”
Armstrong’s “greatest moment” was when his boyhood dream of becoming an NHL player became a reality. “That achievement made every other moment possible and was positive proof that a person with ‘limited talent’ who has a goal, no matter how high, can reach that goal if he is dedicated and has the willingness to pay the price.”
In 1974, Armstrong was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. His other awards include the 1973 Man of the Year award by the Rolling Hills Country Club, the 1976 Denver recipient of the U.S.A. Citizen by Choice Award and the Lester Patrick Trophy in New York in 1977.
In 1977, Armstrong retired from the University of Denver and moved with his wife, Freda, to Venice, Florida. They have one son, Rob.
Armstrong insisted that his players be students first and athletes second.