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No Place Like Home

River Rats' Murley Happy to Be Playing Near Hometown

By Tim Wilkin

Albany Times Union, October 9, 2006

ALBANY - The phone is going to start ringing real soon, Matt Murley knows that.

Friends ... family ... old high school chums ... people he doesn't even know. They'll be chatting up Murley, who is the most popular player the Albany River Rats have.

Got any tickets? How about two at center ice?

Murley, 26, knows it's coming, probably expects it. The home grown Rat was born in Troy, played college hockey at RPI. He still lives in the Collar City. Of course he's going to be a draw downtown this winter.

"I hope so," Murley said after a recent Rats practice. "I hope it will give people a reason to come down. I am going to do whatever I can to help."

He has already started that. After his first practice with the Rats, Murley was pinned against a wall outside the locker room and a horde of TV cameras were in his face.

Several of his new teammates walked by, grinning.

"We know he's not Hollywood," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who saw the Murley media frenzy. "But we've got material now. He is a very humble guy but I have to bust him about it, of course. He's my buddy."

Murley, not by choice, is the poster boy for the River Rats, who play their home opener at the Pepsi Saturday night against Hamilton.

When he was playing in the NHL, Murley would get calls from friends he didn't even know he had. When the parent Carolina Panthers played an exhibition game in Dallas a few weeks ago, he got a call from someone he went to high school with.

He paid $100 out of his own pocket to allow his pal to see him play.

"I get that all over," Murley said. "It seems like every city I was in last year (while playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins) I had to buy tickets for somebody that I knew or my parents knew. I will do it for good friends."

It might be a necessary pain but playing at home has a lot more upswing.

He doesn't have to search for a place to live. He knows the good places to eat. He doesn't have to take two months to feel like he knows his surroundings.

"If you went around the locker room and asked the guys what their dream city to play in the AHL was, I am sure a lot of them would say their hometown," Murley said. "You feel like you are still home for the summer. I mean, I never thought I would make it to the pros when I was younger. I never dreamed I would get a college scholarship and be a first-line player."

He did that. Now, here he is, back home again.

"All I have to do is worry about playing hockey," he said. "It's not going to be a distraction being home. I put those questions to rest when I played at RPI. People thought it would be a problem. It wasn't."