Kings Head Coach Terry Murray skips handshake line with San Jose
The handshake line following a playoff series is one of hockey's most time honored traditions. For an entire series friendships are put on hold, blood is spilled, and vicious body checks are thrown. Every ounce of perspiration is used in order to beat the other guy across the ice, both physically and mentally. It is a no-holds barred war in which the lines between civility and chaos is often blurred.
Which is what makes the handshake line so poetic at the end of it all. Despite the bad blood that brews throughout the course of a series, despite the physical punishment doled out in droves to various body parts of opposing players, the constant through the entirety of it all is respect. Respect for the history of the game. Respect for competition. Respect for the sport.
And most importantly, respect for your opponent.
Which is what makes Terry Murray's decision to skip the handshake line last night in Los Angeles so confusing.
At the 0:45 second mark of the video you'll see Joe Thornton shaking hands with Kings' assistant coaches John Stevens and Jamie Kompon. Kings Head Coach Terry Murray was not present, angering several Sharks players.
"Would like to know why coach of the Kings Terry Murray never shook our hands," Devin Setoguchi said via Twitter. "Might be a first?"
Sharks' forward Jamal Mayers also expressed his dissatisfaction with the event.
"Kings battled hard! Tough series with 3 OT games!" Mayers said. "Too bad Murray didn't have class to shake hands like players (who bled) and Assistant Coaches!"
What makes this story relevant is not what some writer at Fear The Fin thinks. The controversy surrounding Sidney Crosby and the Detroit Red Wings in 2009 is a perfect example of that-- individuals outside of the situation analyzing what it means to be a professional, what it means to have class, what it means to be a human being. Murray is justifiably heartbroken following the loss in overtime. His team had just been eliminated after playing a gutsy series. We can't sit here eating Doritos' on our couches and expect to understand that.
As outside members merely observing the event it's hard for us to judge Murray for his actions. While Murray does not partake in what Gary Thorne once called "one of the great traditions" in all of sports, to assume that we are the moral authority on said tradition is disingenous at best and self-indulgent at worst.
However, what makes this story relevant is the fact that players such as Devin Setoguchi and Jamal Mayers felt strongly enough about the snub to publicly voice their issues with it moments after the elation of a series victory. One would expect that to be the last thing they would feel the need to talk about, and yet, it was something that stood out to them as a monumental decision from the Kings Head Coach. It blew off tradition. It showed a lack of sportsmanship.
It was a slap in the face.
As Mayers said, the players were the ones who bled. The players were the ones who competed. And ultimately, the players were the ones who found it within themselves to put their egos outside to show respect for their opponents.
In the tightly knit hockey community, reputation and professionalism are traits that mean a lot to players. It means a lot to coaching staffs, and it means a lot to management. These traits are what define relationships.
It's unfortunate that Terry Murray lost some of that respect last night.
And it's even more unfortunate that, if given a second chance, it's likely he would have made a different decision.