Cody Murphy has been scoring goals at Miami University since he was a little kid.
He can prove it. He has witnesses.
His scoring ways began more than a decade ago at the old Goggin Arena. He had two half brothers who played for the MU hockey team back in the day. One night, the kid got a chance to step on the ice and take a shot.
“I was like 6,” Murphy recalled. “It was one of those halftime deals. I can’t remember specifically if it was the first shot, but I know I made it. I think I got like a Miami hat or jersey or something like that. They actually had one of those Dr. Seuss hats, a real tall hat, and all the guys came out and signed it. I actually have pucks at my house with signatures from guys on the ’99 team.”
Now a sophomore forward for the RedHawks, Murphy sees kids on the ice and smiles. He knows what it feels like to have heroes. If a kid wants his autograph, he won’t try to duck around a corner. Just hand him a pen.
“I’ve always got time for that,” Murphy said. “It’s funny and a little ironic. It’s kind of cool to change up the perspective.”
Saying Miami hockey is a significant part of his life is an understatement. It’s in his bones, in some ways quite literally. And it’s changed him.
“I’m lucky enough to even have this opportunity to play here and be a part of this school,” Murphy said. “There’s some family pride behind Miami. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
It didn’t start out so great for the Highwood, Ill., native. His first action as a collegiate player was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Oct. 8, 2011. Bemidji State was in town. The rookie didn’t get a chance to play the night before in the season opener. He was ready to make his mark. Maybe too ready.
“It had always been about Miami with me, and I was nervous,” Murphy said. “I felt like I needed to do something. I felt like I was trying to make plays that I shouldn’t. My mind wasn’t in the right spot. I was worried about a lot of different things.”
What he wasn’t worried about was falling down. Nobody slammed into him. Nobody even touched him. “A fluky fall-down in the corner.” That’s the best description he can give.
“I ended up going into the boards kind of wrong, and I ended up breaking my fibula,” Murphy said. “My dad always told me, ‘If you go down, you’ve got to get up. Don’t ever lay down on the ice because you’re going to scare me.’ It’s just always been an unwritten rule.
“As soon as I went down, I actually heard it break, which was weird, but I had so much adrenaline going on that I didn’t even really feel it. Then I tried to get up and I couldn’t, and I started trying to crawl. That’s when I realized I was in trouble.”
His left fibula was broken. His ankle had ligament damage. What could he do? It was time to choose: Drown in self-pity or work like a demon to get back. He chose door No. 2.
Murphy credits Miami trainer Jason Eckerle for his dedication to the rehabilitation cause. Eckerle made sure Murphy stayed focused on the grueling task at hand. Physically, he gradually got better. Mentally, he gradually got better as well.
“I remember having like countdown apps on my phone about when I’m going to get my chance, when I can walk,” Murphy said. “Hockey aside, you don’t realize how lucky you are just to be able to walk around. I took that for granted. I took practicing for granted. I took a lot of things for granted.
“This kind of brought me back to square one. It opened my eyes up to a lot of different things. Appreciate what you have because Monday, you might not have it.”
Ankle surgery added a few more weeks to his rehab, but Murphy kept coming. By January, he was back on the ice for the RedHawks. He finished with two goals and three assists in 18 games.
“It started out as possibly one of the worst years of my life and ended up being one of the best years of my life,” Murphy said. “It kind of slowed me down and made me appreciate the little things. It put my mind right. I was able to focus on school more. It’s something I’ll never forget, something I don’t want to forget.”
Andy and Ken Marsch completed their Miami careers in 2000 and 2002, respectively. Murphy calls them his half brothers because he wants to be technically correct when answering a question. “But if they heard me say half brothers, they’d beat me up,” Murphy said.
He has eight goals and six assists for the third-ranked RedHawks this season. They’re headed to his hometown this weekend to play Notre Dame in the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field. Highwood is about 40 minutes north of downtown Chicago.
Murphy is thrilled by the thought of this spectacle. Surprisingly, he hadn’t been to Soldier Field before attending a Chicago Bears preseason game in 2012.
He’ll have plenty of family and friends on hand. He’ll play like he always does. MU coach Enrico Blasi expects nothing less.
“Cody’s one of those hard-nosed kids you love to have on your team because he gives you everything he’s got,” Blasi said. “His heart is so big. He just wants to please everybody. That’s who he is.”
He likes to push himself. Some guys work hard simply because they know they have to. Murphy simply loves it.
Blasi started a warrior award around Christmas. The idea was to recognize a player in each game won in regulation. It’s now given out by players to other players. Earning the warrior shield generally isn’t about big statistics. It’s usually about everything else.
Murphy won it for his efforts against Bowling Green on Jan. 25. He proudly wore the shield to the postgame press conference.
“It’s nice to see someone get rewarded for something that maybe just wouldn’t come up on the stat sheet,” Murphy said. “A person that comes to mind is Garrett Kennedy. If you look at his stats, he hasn’t scored a million goals. But day in and day out, he’s blocking shots and doing all the little things.
“Marc Hagel is another great example. He’s great on the penalty kill and going down on two knees to block a shot in the chest. This puck’s coming 86 miles an hour and you’re going to do that for the guys next to you? That’s pretty powerful. That’s an award that I’m sure is going to carry on.”
His father, John, is the head coach at Lake Forest (Ill.) High School. He coached his son for a few years. It’s a blue-collar combination. John played some professional hockey and didn’t go to college.
“I think he regrets not going to college,” Cody said. “He’s been really, really successful because he works hard and because he’s passionate about what he does. That’s what he passed along to me. He’s always talked about doing what’s best for the team. It’s never been just about me.
“My dad coaches Lake Forest. He runs hockey camps. He has a painting company, Murphy Painting & Contracting. In the winter, he does some snow plowing. He keeps me away from the painting and contracting stuff because he doesn’t want me working with tools the rest of my life. He wants me to graduate from college.”
Murphy will turn 22 in April. He’s majoring in sport management. He’d love to play pro hockey if the opportunity arises. And he wants to be a coach someday.
“I think it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t pay it forward because a lot of people have done a lot of things for me,” Murphy said. “I owe big thank yous to my mom and dad. They’ve given me all these opportunities.”
He’s excited about lacing up his skates every day. His team is very good, a national championship contender. Murphy plans to keep doing his part.
“It comes down to pure competition,” he said. “I enjoy it. I love it. I’ll do whatever it takes.”