Oklahoma native finds path to the USHL
by Jared Shafran, Tri-City Storm
Growing up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, Tri-City Storm forward Ryan McMurphy took a different path to Kearney, Nebraska.
Admittedly, he had some different interests than some of the other kids his age.
“When I was little, everyone was riding their bikes around the neighborhood and I didn’t know how to ride mine so I just roller skated everywhere,” said McMurphy. “I was like hey, maybe hockey’s just my sport.”
McMurphy started playing roller hockey when he was five, but didn’t start on the ice until he was seven.
“My dad had a friend with a son who played roller hockey so I went to a game and watched him,” McMurphy said. “I decided I wanted to play too. Two years later the roller rink shut down, so I switched over to ice and I fell in love with it.”
After working his way through the local Tulsa Flames hockey program, McMurphy had a decision to make. If hockey was a sport he truly wanted to pursue, he would have to leave home.
“Once I became a second year bantam (age 13), I got a call from a coach in Dallas asking me to come play AAA for the Stars program,” McMurphy said. “So at the beginning of my freshman year of high school I moved to Dallas to play down there.”
The forward spent all four of his high school years in Dallas, living with two different billet families. Although he was originally drafted in the USHL by Cedar Rapids, McMurphy didn’t make the roster. He got a second chance with the Storm, who picked up his rights and invited him to training camp.
Now in his second season in the USHL, McMurphy is starting to get the results he’s been dreaming of. He’s been a big contributor during the team’s four-game winning streak, and was named forward of the week by the league office on Monday after three goals and an assist last weekend in Sioux Falls.
“I think just knowing the league more has helped me,” McMurphy said. “I’ve got more patience with the puck, I’m seeing the ice better, and I’ve gotten used to a faster pace. The game tends to slow down a bit once you’re a veteran.”
The 19-year-old now has six goals and three assists in 26 games this season. His totals have already surpassed last year’s effort, when he suited up in 58 games.
“To me, Ryan epitomizes what we want to be all about,” said Storm head coach Jim Hulton. “He’s got a terrific work ethic, and he’s a team-first guy. He does a lot of the unsung hero roles, and he’s a top notch face-off guy, a great penalty killer, and he plays foremost on a checking line that shuts down the other team’s top units. He often times doesn’t get recognized on the scoresheet, but through the coach’s eyes, he does a terrific job night in and night out.”
One of only two Oklahomans in the league, McMurphy said he’s had a rivalry with Des Moines Buccaneers forward Tanner Karty since the two grew up playing against one another.
“He played for Oklahoma City, I played for Tulsa,” McMurphy said. “He’s the only one I know from Oklahoma who has made it to this level.”
The first Oklahoma native in the NHL was Matt Donovan, who made his debut two seasons ago and is currently with the New York Islanders. Donovan played two years in Cedar Rapids with the RoughRiders before attending the University of Denver.
Just like Donovan, the next step for McMurphy is to play in college at the division I level. But one advantage the Storm forward has on a lot of other hockey players his age is his grades. It turns out hockey wasn’t the only thing he was working on in Dallas.
“Growing up my parents always harped on me about grades so I take school pretty seriously,” McMurphy said. “I’ve got a good GPA so I’m looking at some Ivy League schools right now. I’m also looking at schools in Colorado because those are the closest to Oklahoma.”
The majors he is considering include pharmacy and petroleum engineering; not necessarily the classes a normal collegiate athlete is enrolled in.
When he does head to college, McMurphy might have an easier time explaining what he’s studying than the sport he is playing, as the locals in Oklahoma are still learning about the sport.
“When I’m down south I feel like I have to explain things to the same person three different times before they get the hang of it,” McMurphy said. “But no matter what everyone is still there to support me.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 12th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2013-14. A record 32 players were chosen in the 2013 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season have committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (www.facebook.com/ushlhockey), twitter (www.twitter.com/ushl), and YouTube (www.youtube.com/ushlinteractive). Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (ushl.fasthockey.com).
It’s not just hockey. It’s the USHL.
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