skip navigation

Brian Murphy’s Personality was a Key to his Hall of Fame Career as an Official

By Steve Drumwright, 12/05/23, 9:30AM MST


Murphy is the second American official to work more than 2,000 NHL games

Scott Zelkin and Chris Rooney first met Brian Murphy during their early days of being hockey officials.

Zelkin, now the manager of USA Hockey’s Junior Officiating Development Program, was in his first NHL officials training camp in 1991. But it wasn’t until the next summer that he got to know Murphy better at a USA Hockey camp. Rooney, who made his NHL officiating debut in 2000 and is still going strong, was one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring referees and linesmen Murphy tutored.

When it came time to talk about Murphy going into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the 2023 class, both couldn’t help but gush about the personal side of one of the NHL’s top officials.

“Officiating is what started our friendship, but hockey isn’t the reason we’re friends, if that makes sense,” said Zelkin, who has officiated more than 1,000 professional hockey games. “He’s a member of my family, with or without hockey, and I certainly feel a kinship to his wife and his two daughters and consider them all part of my family.”

Rooney added that Murphy deserves the induction on multiple levels. 

“He’s sort of had two Hall of Fame careers, one on the ice and one off the ice,” Rooney said. “If there was ever a separate category from where he’s going in [as an official], he probably would be inducted again next year [for the person he is]. That’s probably the theme that you’re going to hear from anybody that you talk to.”

Murphy, a native of Dover, New Hampshire, will only need one ceremony to honor both sides of what he has done. He will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 in Boston along with Dustin Brown, Brian Burke, Katie King Crowley and Jamie Langenbrunner. In addition, Joe Bertagna, 2023 Lester Patrick Trophy winner, will be honored.

On the ice, Murphy officiated from 1988 to 2020. In 2019, he became the second American, and eighth official overall, to reach the 2,000-game regular-season mark in the NHL. Additionally, he worked 304 Stanley Cup Playoffs games, including nine Stanley Cup Finals. Murphy was also selected for key international events, such as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey in 2004 and 2016.

Zelkin believes Murphy’s selflessness is what stands out the most about him. 

“It’s a unique individual that is more concerned with other people, their well-being and what is going on in their world, than concerned about what’s going on in their own world,” Zelkin said of Murphy, who was also the best man at his wedding. “That’s what Brian is. He’s someone that is always more curious about how are things going with the other person than worrying about talking about his challenges.”

Murphy emerged as one of the elite officials during his 32-year career because of the way he approached the game, which is something Rooney experienced firsthand. 

“It’s probably his steadiness and his calmness,” Rooney said. “He never really seemed to get rattled even when he might have made a mistake. When some guys do make a mistake, it unravels from there. He seemed to me to always be willing to just get past it and just move on and be great the rest of the game.”

When paired together, Murphy counseled Rooney in ways to improve on and off the ice.

“I was always sort of the youngest in every league that I worked,” said Rooney, who has worked six Stanley Cup Finals, including the last two. “He was always reminding me that there is a certain way to conduct yourself, especially when you’re that young – to have success in this business, there’s a certain way to conduct yourself. Brian, more than anybody, was always willing to remind me of that and that’s probably helped me the most.”

Even now, following his retirement from the NHL, Murphy continues to help others. He is the supervisor of men’s officials for the Hockey East, a conference he officiated in from 1986 to 1988. 

“I don’t know if USA Hockey is ever going to have as dedicated an individual as Brian Murphy,” Zelkin said. “For the majority of his career, he was always involved with USA Hockey in terms of educating and teaching officials with the hopes of developing them and bringing them along to the next level. The USA Hockey officiating program and hundreds of officials wouldn’t be as successful as they are, regardless of whatever level they achieve, without Brian Murphy’s influence.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Class of 2023

Past Inductees