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Of Matt, Bill And LeBron–A Murray Tale Of Inspiration (PHN+)



Call Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto eagle-eyed. Call Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray impressed.

The Penguins tweeted out a photo of Murray wearing the player-of-the-game fireman’s helmet in the PPG Paints Arena locker room after Saturday’s shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Murray had a towel around his neck but no shirt on. If you enlarge the photo, you can read a tattoo in the inner part of his upper left arm.

“The Man in the Arena” it says.

It refers to a 1910 speech Theodore Roosevelt gave in Paris shortly after his American presidency that eschewed the values of determination, discipline, character and courage found in the citizens who carry the world’s workload.

Peduto noted that he liked the tattoo and even provided a link to learn more about the phrase:


“That’s really cool,” Murray said Monday, grinning at the notion that he shares an affinity for the message with the city’s mayor.

There is an intermediary in this story, too, as Murray revealed in tracing the origins of the tattoo in an exclusive interview with PHN. He first learned of the speech when he heard about basketball megastar LeBron James’ interest in it and practice of writing “The Man in the Arena” on his shoes.

“So I looked it up,” Murray said. “It’s long, so it has a lot of  meaning to it. But it just talks about daring greatly, I guess, is the biggest part of it. It’s worth looking into for sure if you haven’t read it. It’s pretty cool.”

You can read the whole speech, which is formally called “Citizenship in a Republic,” here.

“It’s just about forging your own path and not being afraid to try new things and fail,” Murray said. “Just kind of not being afraid to fail and to learn from it. But there’s so many lessons in that speech.”

Murray said the inspiration from that speech dovetails with his approach to goaltending. When he says – as he often does – that he’s all about stopping the next shot, worrying only about the immediate game head, he means it. Teddy Roosevelt probably would be proud.

It’s still might seem at times that Murray is a seasoned veteran, what with two Stanley Cups under his belt. But he is 25, young for a franchise goalie, and is early in just his fourth full NHL season.

Murray is 9-3-1, tied for most wins in the NHL, and has a 2.35 goals-against average and a .916 goals-against average.

He has started 14 of the team’s 17 games (completing 13, as he got yanked once) and is expected to be in net again Tuesday night against the Rangers in New York.

It seems like a heavy workload – although the Penguins haven’t yet had much in the way of a grueling schedule. Coach Mike Sullivan said that doesn’t represent a change in how the team is deploying Murray.

“I don’t know that it’s evolved; I just think it’s been a different circumstance this year,” Sullivan said. “We’ve always had, regardless of who plays goal, as a coaching staff, we believe in managing workloads to the point where we keep our guys at their best.

“We have numbers in mind that we’re trying to hit both short term and in the big picture. There’s always going to be circumstances that weigh into those decisions. We’re watching the amount of games played and we’re looking at our schedule, what’s right in front of us but also in a longer term as well. We’re trying to manage the workload which we think will give our goalies the best chance to be at their best in the long term.”

The plans teams devise for their goalies involve wanting to ride their top guy to win as much as possible while still having him fresh enough for a potential long playoff run.

“I think it’s just all about balance,” Murray said. “For sure I like playing a lot. There is a point where you can overdo it, but for me it’s just all about balance and trying to find that every day.”

Like Sullivan, Murray doesn’t necessarily see a change in the team’s approach to deploying him.

“I just try to do the best that I can to improve each and every year – in terms of conditioning and all that, too,” Murray said. “My job is to be ready to play every game. Obviously I won’t play every game, but that’s not my decision. That comes down to Coach.

“I know they have probably a good game plan for how many starts, whatever it may be, and my job is to just try to be ready for each and every time my name’s called and to play the best that I can whenever it is.”

On those nights, Murray is the man in the crease in the arena.


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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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