Roasted Bearcat tickles the ribs

Hockey: Plenty of laughs at Okotoks Oilers fundraiser

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012 06:00 am

Jim "Bearcat" Murray finally gets some hair at his 80th birthday party roast on Nov. 15 at the Foothills Centennial Centre in Okotoks.
Jim "Bearcat" Murray finally gets some hair at his 80th birthday party roast on Nov. 15 at the Foothills Centennial Centre in Okotoks.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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They served some roasted bearcat at the Foothills Centennial Centre in Okotoks last week and it left everybody with sore stomachs.Jim "Bearcat" Murray finally gets some hair at his 80th birthday party roast on Nov. 15 at the Foothills Centennial Centre in Okotoks.

Jim "Bearcat" Murray finally gets some hair at his 80th birthday party roast on Nov. 15 at the Foothills Centennial Centre in Okotoks.
Bruce Campbell/OWW
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The food was great, but the approximately 320 people in attendance at the Okotoks Junior A Oilers’ Jim “Bearcat” Murray 80th Birthday Roast split their guts with laughter at the stories of the former Calgary Flames trainer told by some of the guys he taped up.

Murray’s infectious giggle was contagious.

“I had a hoot,” Murray said after the roast. “I picked those three guys because we’ve done this before and they were very funny.”

Murray said he was honoured to be chosen for the fundraiser to help the

young Oilers.

“I told them I would do anything to help,” Murray said with a chuckle. “I told them I didn’t think they would make a plug nickel.”

The three roasters Bearcat chose were former Flames Colin Patterson, Jamie Macoun and Perry Berezan who lounged around on stage and fondly toasted Okotoks’ old potlicker.

Patterson told the audience about Murray going beyond the call of duty, helping out an athlete who had fallen while practicing on the ice in Los Angeles.

“He’s a giving guy, always willing to help out,” Patterson said. “In L.A. there was a figure skating event going on and the ladies are out there practicing and Katarina Witt hurts her knee.”

Witt, who won the gold medal in ladies figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, also is, according to Patterson, quite attractive.

“I hadn’t seen Bear move that fast — Katarina goes down and Bear’s out there,” Patterson said. “He’s out there tapping her head and shoulders and he drops his hands and I’m thinking: ‘Gee Bear, I don’t think she broke a breast.’”

Murray and some of the players were able to get the grateful Witt to the dressing room.

“She had about a 20-minute dissertation with Bear and usually with us, if we hurt a knee, it would be: ‘Get back out there,”’ Patterson quipped.

Bearcat was ahead of his time, even willing to teach yoga to the Flames.

“Badger (Flames coach Bob Johnson) had this idea for us to take yoga,” Patterson said. “We had a couple of sessions, but the instructor couldn’t go on the road. So Badger said: ‘Bear you run the yoga session.’”

It was all new to the Bearcat.

“Here was this hairy-little potlicker, ‘Okay guys standup, stretch, lie down. Okay, relax your arse,” Patterson laughed. “That was Bear’s yoga session.”

Berezan, who according to Murray was an often-seen client, said Bearcat always did the little extras for an injured player - especially if it was a Hockey Night in Canada game.

“If it was a national game, Bear knew where the camera angles were,” Berezan said. “His towel was folded perfectly and his hairs — the few of them — were perfect.”

He said Bear would be scoping out the cameras while tending to the injured player.

“If you weren’t hurt, he’d say, ‘Stay down, stay down, we can get five minutes out of this,” Berezan joked.

Macoun admired Bearcat’s toughness. At one practice, Bearcat received a birthday gift of being hauled around on his back on the ice.

“We taped him up and dragged him around and unfortunately his pants came down,” Macoun said. “The ice had been skated on so it wasn’t exactly smooth. The poor potlicker had some abrasions on his rear end and you have to give him credit, he didn’t complain at all.

“I have to guarantee you, if it would have been Kent Nilsson, he’d have been out for two weeks.”

Macoun added Bearcat was on the bench the next day after tearing some tendons in his ankle during a skirmish in Edmonton.

Berezan admitted he felt guilty roasting an individual for whom he has so much admiration.

“To say bad things about Bear just doesn’t seem right,” Berezan said. “He was our psychologist, best friend, our parent figure and our trainer. He was everything.”

The evening opened with some small barbs from Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson and MD of Foothills Reeve Larry Spilak, and then Bearcat’s long-time friend and high school buddy, Doug Fraser took the stage.

He recalled when he and Bearcat both had jobs driving taxi in Calgary. He said Bearcat may have got his start in the medical field when a passenger went into labour in the back of his cab.

Fraser also gave something Bearcat hasn’t seen for a while — hair. He presented Bearcat with a hat with hair, which brought the crowd to its feet.

The evening was hosted by Rob Kerr, the voice of Calgary Flames on Sportsnet TV. Kerr told the Oilers players, they are playing “the greatest game in the world,” despite what is happening in the NHL.

Kerr, who started his career broadcasting Alberta Junior Hockey League games 20 years ago in Fort MacMurray, urged the players to give back to the game, much like Bearcat Murray has given back to hockey and the Okotoks community.

“Bearcat, you are a hero and a true legend,” Kerr said of the hall of fame trainer.

Bearcat had the last word. He thanked the audience and told some humourous stories from his day with the Flames including getting dunked by Lanny McDonald and Doug Risebrough into the whirlpool. Bearcat jumped out and he had Risebrough’s suit under his clothes.

“Oh Riser was mad,” Bearcat said.

The night not only provided chuckles but will add some money to the Oilers’ coffers.

Oilers business manager Dallas Hand said the night was an overwhelming success, even if the hockey team does not have a final tally on how much money was raised.


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