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Dennis Murphy, co-founder of the World Hockey Association and Roller Hockey International has passed away at the age of 94

Dennis Murphy, a brilliant sports entrepreneur who co-founded professional leagues in basketball, hockey, tennis and roller hockey that featured innovations in marketing, rules and playing style, died Thursday. He was 94.

Murphy died of congestive heart failure at an assisted living facility in the Orange County city of Placentia, California, according to his son, Dennis Jr.

The elder Murphy co-founded the American Basketball Association, World Hockey Association, World Team Tennis and Roller Hockey International.

“He just always had a vision for sports,” Dennis Jr. said. “He was kind of like the underdog, so he always wanted to bring a new league in.”

The WHA existed from 1972-79 and although it wasn’t the first league to challenge the National Hockey League’s dominance, it was easily the most successful.

Nearly 70 players jumped from the NHL to the WHA in its first year, led by Bobby Hull, who signed an unprecedented $1 million contract. Gordie Howe soon followed.

The WHA also signed European players, paving the way for a new era in North American hockey. Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier began their careers in the WHA. Murphy served as commissioner for three years.

Murphy’s last pro league founded was Roller Hockey International from 1992-99. He was inspired after seeing kids playing roller hockey on concrete instead of ice. Larry King joined Murphy and Alex Bellehumeur in developing the league.

Murphy served as an Army staff sergeant in World War II and as a captain in the Korean War. He majored in economics at the University of Southern California. He served one term as mayor of Buena Park, California, in the late 1950s before becoming a marketing executive for a civil engineering firm.

Besides his son, he is survived by daughters Dawn Mee and Doreen Haarlamert, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His wife, Elaine, died in 1985.

Igor Burdetskiy

Igor Burdetskiy

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & CEO at Hooked on Hockey Magazine
I grew up playing Ball and Roller Hockey day and night somewhat religiously throughout elementary and middle school. The two don't compare though when I lace up the skates and hit the ice. I live and breathe hockey beyond the perspective of "it's just a game" and I will gladly talk hockey for hours with anyone. Hockey is more than just a lifestyle, it's a culture of passionate people who make memories every time the puck is dropped. Hockey has not only helped me get through some of the hardest times in life but has created some of the best memories to date. Want to talk hockey with me? Shoot me an email: iburdetskiy@hookedonhockey.com and let's talk some hockey!
Igor Burdetskiy
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