EDMONTON – The excellent crew of on-ice officials in Edmonton have had a pretty smooth ride so far at the U20. No major controversy has erupted on ice, no brawls or seismic event to call test their abilities to the max. But if anything untoward ever happened, one guy who could step in and keep the peace is linesman Kiel (pronounced Kyle) Murchison.
Murchsion is a seasoned veteran on the line, but he is also a seasoned veteran of the Vancouver Police Department. He leads a dual life in part because he is passionate about both jobs, and in part because his love for hockey needs to be augmented by his need for a reasonable paycheque. “No one makes a living as an official in the Western Hockey League,” he deadpanned, no insult intended. “That’s just how it is.”
“I played Junior B hockey in Coquitlan until I was 16 or 17,” Murchison said, starting at the beginning. “I was a left winger. I had to stop playing because I had had too many concussions. I just took too many hits, came back too soon. The situation compounded. There wasn’t as much knowledge about concussions then. I got bumped in the head, felt okay, went back and played. Got hit, not as hard, and it got worse and worse.”
This is a story all too common but all too unfamiliar. While the average hockey fan knows about concussions to Sidney Crosby and the dozens of NHLers whose careers are imperiled by head hits, rarely do fans read about the teens whose careers are finished before they’ve begun.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Murchison continued. “Hockey was pretty much my life. I wanted to stay in the game. I talked to the referee in chief of British Columbia, Peter Zerbinos, and he helped me along and got me into the Western league. I was only 18, but I had been reffing since I was 12. When I started playing more competitively, at 13 or 14, I quit. When I got back into it, I made a progression to lining. I always seemed to be in the corners or in the mix, where the hot spots are, so it seemed like a natural progression for me to become a linesman.”
Murchison has been working as a linesman for eight years and has steadily gained a reputation as being world class. He has not only been a linesman in the WHL for nearly a decade, during which time he participated in one Memorial Cup tournament, he has started working in the AHL as well. And, in 2011, he was nominated by Hockey Canada to participate in the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Not only did he get into eight games, he was part of the historic all-Canadian crew that worked the gold medal game. “Brent Reiber, Chris Carlson and Darcy Burchell, and I worked that game,” he remembers with pride.
Flip the coin and see the other side of Murchison. “I always wanted to be a cop,” he said matter-of-factly, as though nothing could be as obvious. “My grandfather was a Mountie, and so was my dad. He was an auxiliary member. I went to school, took Criminology, and then got lucky. I was hired when I was 22. I’ve been with the VPD for four years now.”
This double life co-exists in part because of Murchison’s love and devotion to both jobs – and also a fortuitous schedule. “It works out well with hockey,” he explained, “because I work four on, four off. So, I work four shifts, get four days off. That allows me to work hockey on my days off. I also have an understanding wife, so she supports me in this.”
Murchison is a patrol officer, so he’s in a car, working downtown Vancouver. He’ll never forget the night of June 15, 2011, the night of game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, when Vancouverites took to the streets in thousands, rioting, burning cars, and smashing windows. “I was there,” he said. “It was pretty crazy. Hopefully this will never happen again in my lifetime. It was a terrible couple of hours, that’s for sure.”
Murchison has youth and energy on his side, but is it possible to keep his hectic dual life going for the forseeable future? “It definitely depends on the family situation,” he acknowledged. “I’d like to keep going as long as I can. But I’m going at a pretty breakneck pace right now.”
Like any player, Murchison appreciates the privilege of “playing for your country,” as it were. “I’d love to do more international games. Now that I’ve done some, it’s such an honour to be selected to work these tournaments. It’s a great experience and I love being here.”
Given his youth, his experience, and his abilities, Murchison is also on a path to the NHL. “I’d love to be there,” he admitted. “If I ever got the opportunity to work up top, it would be a dream job. All I can do is work hard. If they like me, they’ll hire me, I guess. There are not a lot of jobs on top. You kind of have to be at the top of your game, and there has to be a job for you. Just wait and see.”
Considering what he’s already accomplished at age 26--and his ancillary skills as a VPD patrol officer--it’s more likely a question of when, not if, we’ll see Murchison in the NHL and other IIHF events. Both jobs require grace under pressure, and Murchison has that in spades.