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INDUCTEE 2012 - ATHLETE - Murray Grapentine


Introductory Comments by Don McMillan

It is my honor tonight to introduce you to Murray Grapentine who is being inducted for his accomplishments as an athlete in the sport of volleyball.  According to Murray it was almost as if volleyball chose him as he was blessed with a tall & skinny body type with long arms and legs....perfect for volleyball.  But, just having the necessary body type and the natural ability doesn’t mean you will become a world class athlete.  Having a passion for and love of your chosen sport, putting in the hours of practice and competition necessary, being coachable, making the right career decisions and having a positive attitude all contributed to Murray’s meteoric rise to the top echelon of his sport, his two Canadian championships, his 11 year tenure on Team Canada, his many individual awards and winning the bronze medal at the Pan American Games.  According to one of Murray’s team mates, Murray never took his physical attributes for granted and gave huge efforts both in training and in competition. 

At first Murray played volleyball for fun and for the love of sport.  Once he started to excel he did set some goals including playing volleyball after high school at college or university and maybe some day playing on the National Team.  After high school Murray didn’t think he was ready to play at the university level so he chose to play at Red Deer College where he was able to refine his skills away from the limelight of university athletics.  After capturing the National Championship with Red Deer, he transferred to the University Of Alberta.  It was a new experience for the shy fellow that Murray was, he didn’t really know much about university sports or what his role with the Golden Bears was going to be, but he found out pretty quickly, he was going to be a middle blocker.  When interviewed by the University paper, the Gateway, Murray said he “looked at that assignment and how he was going to approach play....I was going to be the best blocker in every match and hopefully that would affect the outcome”.  Well, that attitude carried through during his whole career and was certainly one of the reasons for Murray’s outstanding achievements.   He did become the best blocker on the Golden Bears, the best blocker on the Canadian National Team and one of the best blockers in the WORLD.

When asked about Murray’s abilities his University coach had this to say:  Murray is good at everything he does. He plays basketball, he looks smooth.  He’s our best hockey player ....and in a six-eight frame.  I don’t think he knows what he can’t do.  Murray seems to have no limits. He has an instinctive sense of how to block.  First year with the Bears, Murray started every conference match, was selected a first-team all star, led the team in solo blocks, enjoyed a national title and at the age of 19 he was on the A National Team.  According to Murray said “It was kind of overwhelming playing for the National Team.  I’m playing with guys I came up to Edmonton to watch and then I was right there with them.  It was quite an experience and a great time. “ 

A little more than a year later Murray was a starting player for Team Canada at the World Championships. At the age of 21, he was probably the youngest player in the tournament and Canada’s youngest starter by three years.   In his first World Championships, Murray showed he belonged on the global stage by placing among the best 100 volleyball players in the world defending against the world’s best hitters.  His 12 match total ranked him 41st and he was ranked eighth among blockers.  Murray’s comments after the World Championships were:  “I was a little bit awe-struck, I think.  I went into my first major international tournament playing against the best players in the world.  It was pretty exciting.”

After playing 12 games in 17 days in Tokyo at his first World Championships and then enduring the 10 hr return flight to Edmonton, one hour after arriving home Murray was in the gym, all taped up and ready to work out with his Alberta Golden Bear teammates.  “I just wanted to find out the plan for the week”, the team captain said with a shrug.  “I figured the best thing to do was show up at practice.”  The coach wasted little time telling his bleary-eyed player to go home.  Chuckling the coach said the incident is proof of Murray’s character.  “He’s just a gamer,  That’s a true sign of how seriously he takes us.”

Quotes from his former team-mates and many newspaper clippings give us more insight into Murray’s personality and traits.   One of his school and college teammates mentioned that “Murray never looked for attention, yet it alway came via visiting coaches, players, newspaper reporters and recruiters.  He often seemed embarrassed because of the attention but it never affected him, he’d just brush it off and get back to joking around with friends”.  According to one article, “The best way to describe Murray is that he has two faces, one is that of a quiet and modest person who dislikes all the attention and hoopla he receives, the other belongs to a superstar whose on-court strength and dominance completely contrast his persona off the courts”.  Another article stated: “Modesty is a quality Murray Grapentine exudes despite his stature as a member of Canada’s National volleyball team.  He’s just one of the guys when he dons his University of Alberta Golden Bears jersey and hits the court for a varsity game or practice”.    Quoting a former teammate: “Murray was an extremely loyal friend and teammate, through thick and thin, he’d stand by his teammates and never give up on anyone.”

While at university Murray said: “Even practice is a joy for me.  I’ll work hard in practice even if I’m having a bad day.  If I turn professional one day and earn a living playing a game I love, then that’s a bonus. “  Until he was in University Murray didn’t even know it was possible to play volleyball professionally.   As a member of team Canada playing professionally was a way for the players to maintain and improve their skill level, earn a living and still be able to play on the Canadian National Team.  Murray chose this route and for 12 years he played professional volleyball in Spain and then France all the while retaining his position on Team Canada and eventually moving into a leadership role as team captain.

 Murray, your innate talent, your positive work ethic and character traits helped lead you to all of your volleyball accomplishments.  You have innumerable individual awards from both the university ad professional ranks and tonight we’re adding to the list by inducting you into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame.

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