(On Jan. 1, 2021, Kenneth “Red” Murphy passed away after a lengthy battle with dementia.)
Six years ago, I was working at The Tennessean and wrote a story about the Nashville Youth Hockey League’s 50th anniversary.
I remember sitting in the living room with my dad when I pitched the story and we talked about what the league was like when he first moved to Nashville from Toronto. He told me to hold on and shortly after, he came back downstairs with an old team photo from 1969.
He held the photo, pointed and gushed about his head coach. He told me stories about “Red” Murphy playing for the Dixie Flyers and how he would spend many nights with his dad (my grandfather) having beers or dinner.
That led me to cold-calling this Nashville hockey legend.
This older gentleman answered the phone and we chatted for a few minutes about the story I was working on. He told me his memory was starting to go and would feel more comfortable talking at his home. So, he invited me over.
When I arrived, Murphy and his wife, Sallye, laid out all of the youth team photos on his kitchen counter. I briefly looked before we made our way to his hockey room. The walls were covered in photos and jerseys and the shelves were piled high with hats and pucks.
I turned my recorder on and he transported me back to the 1960’s and the early days of Municipal Auditorium.
We talked for almost two hours, my photographer left after about 20 minutes, but I was engrossed with his passion for the game and the smile on his face as he talked about it.
We wrapped up the interview and made our way back to the kitchen. He offered me a glass of water and he picked up a team photo from 1969. He just smiled and handed it to me. I saw this tall kid in the middle of photo who looked a lot like my younger brother, looked at the names, turned to Murphy, pointed and said, “That’s my dad.”
He replied, “The Canadian kid? He was so much better than every one else and was your grandfather the short British guy?”
I answered yes to both questions and then he told me stories about my grandfather who passed before my parents ever met.
Before I left, he asked me to save his phone number so he could teach me how to skate. Since then, I’ve learned to skate and have moved all over the country.
I never got the opportunity to go skate with him but I will always cherish the day I did spend with him.