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Former NHL player Murray Craven back in the game with Bill Foley

Murray Craven turned 52 last Thursday. But he was too busy to celebrate.

Figuratively speaking, he has so much on his plate, there’s no room for birthday cake.

The former NHL player and Medicine Hat, Alberta, native who has been serving as Bill Foley’s adviser throughout the billionaire businessman’s quest to bring major league sports to Las Vegas is multitasking more than ever now that Foley has his team. Craven is overseeing the final phases of construction of the team’s locker room at T-Mobile Arena. He’s trying to get all the engineering and building permits in place so construction can start on the team’s 105,000 square-foot practice facility adjacent to Downtown Summerlin.

GETTING THE TEAM UNDERWAY

He’s helping general manager George McPhee with hockey matters as McPhee is assembling his scouting and operations staff. And he’s involved with the next big announcement — the team’s name and brand.

“Every day is hectic,” Craven said. “But that’s what happens when you’re building a new organization. There’s so much that has to be done.”

While Foley has been the face of the franchise to date, Craven has been its backbone. He has been with Foley from Day One when Foley told him nearly three years ago that he was going to pursue acquiring an NHL franchise for Las Vegas.

“I believed in the project after the initial ‘Bill, are you out of your mind?’” Craven said. “But one thing I’ve learned about Bill in the 16 years I’ve known him, it’s that when he believes in something and he decides he wants to do it, it usually happens.”

FRUSTRATION AT THE PROCESS

Craven admitted there were days where he shared Foley’s frustration over the lengthy, deliberate process the NHL took to eventually award Foley the franchise on June 22.

“The darkest days were when there would be a Board of Governors meeting and we weren’t even on the agenda,” Craven said. “I would reach out to people I knew and they would say, ‘They didn’t even talk about you.’ That’s when I got nervous.

“Little did I know we had the support all along. It’s just that the NHL likes to play its cards close to the vest.”

Craven played 18 years in the NHL and had a very good career, scoring 266 goals and racking up 759 points. He went to the Stanley Cup Finals three times but came up short each occasion, twice with Philadelphia (1985 and 1987) and with Vancouver in 1994. Now he finds himself back in the game and its infrastructure is vastly different from the one he played.

HOCKEY ALL YEAR LONG

“It’s a year-round sport,” he said. “Guys come to training camp in shape and ready to play. In my day, you used training camp to get yourself in shape. Now camp is short, just a few days, and you’re playing (preseason) games.”

Craven said his vision for the Las Vegas team is to make it a first-class operation. If you play for this team, he said you can expect the best there is to offer.

“Players are going to love playing here,” he said. “In return, all Bill asks is that they give their best every night for the team and the city.”

Foley said Craven has been invaluable throughout the journey of obtaining the NHL expansion franchise and he will remain invaluable going forward.

“Murray’s a real practical, smart guy,” Foley said. “He’s been instrumental in helping us get the team and he’s going to be instrumental for us in so many areas. He’s overseeing the practice facility. He redesigned the locker room (at T-Mobile). He helped identify George as our general manager. He’s a friend and a very important part of everything we’re doing.”

THEY MET PLAYING GOLF

The two are neighbors in Whitefish, Montana, and they met playing golf. Craven wasn’t impressed with Foley the golfer. But Foley the businessman and person?

“I had no idea he was a billionaire,” Craven said. “One day, we were driving around and I suggested we get something to eat. He pulled into a Carl’s Jr. and he said, ‘I used to own that.’ He’s just a fascinating guy.

“Talking to him was like talking to a veteran who served in Vietnam or Iraq except with Bill, he’s telling business stories instead of war stories even though he went to West Point. He’s one of those guys you marvel at. His capacity to handle the complexity of his life is amazing.”

Craven said he’s very comfortable staying out of the spotlight. When the team announced McPhee as its GM on July 13, Craven preferred to stay in the back of the room at T-Mobile Arena and let Foley and McPhee get all the attention.

“I like where I’m at, being behind the scenes, helping Bill and helping George and doing whatever they ask,” Craven said. “We’re all working together for the same thing — to put a great team on the ice that can win a Stanley Cup and make the Las Vegas proud.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow on Twitter: @stevecarprj

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