Vernon’s Barb and Denis Murdoch, pictured at Lake Louise in 1987, will be inducted into the builder category of the B.C. Volleyball Hall of Fame, Class of 2021, on Feb. 15. (Murdoch family photo)

Vernon’s Barb and Denis Murdoch, pictured at Lake Louise in 1987, will be inducted into the builder category of the B.C. Volleyball Hall of Fame, Class of 2021, on Feb. 15. (Murdoch family photo)

North Okanagan volleyball couple earn Hall of Fame call

Denis and Barb Murdoch will be inducted into B.C. Volleyball Hall of Fame in builder category

The man nicknamed Slick, for his trademark crewcut, makes it clear to a reporter and former player visiting his North Vernon home.

He – Denis Murdoch – was more a teacher than a man who coached volleyball at the club and school level for 27 full years, and parts of another five years after retirement when three of his granddaughters move to the region.

Coaching is his hobby, along with fishing, golfing and organizing boxes of photos, notes and game sheets from a lifetime in the sport.

Murdoch and his beloved wife Barb have been named inductees in the builder category for the B.C. Volleyball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.

“I’ve coached hundreds and hundreds of kids and I was happy to coach those playing simply because they enjoyed playing volleyball as much as those who would go on to play at college or universities, or even professional,” said Murdoch, 81, warming up after shovelling his freshly snowed upon driveway.

“I was as happy teaching the game to young players at the bantam level. I didn’t care if we didn’t win (pause)…very often.”

Born in 1939 in “Little Los Angeles” – insisting the reporter write that down, referring to his hometown of Kelowna – Murdoch never touched a volleyball until his second teaching job at the old Clarence Fulton Secondary School in Vernon in 1972.

A shade under five-foot-five in his coaching days – he would stand on the bench at times to looks his players in the eyes talking to them during a timeout or between games, and was routinely photographed in many team pictures standing on a bench – Murdoch had been a swimmer.

He won a marathon race in Penticton that included swimming from Okanagan Lake, down the river channel to Skaha Lake and then swimming a mile across Skaha to beat the second-place finisher by 24 seconds. He swam in another race in Kalamalka Lake, 18.5 kilometres, Oyama to Vernon, finishing seventh in 6.5 hours.

He trained for distance swimming in the Shuswap River when he taught at Enderby’s A.L. Fortune Junior-Senior Secondary School in his first job prior to moving to Vernon.

At Fulton, he was asked to coach the girls volleyball team in the fall of 1972. That summer, Murdoch enrolled in a B.C. Volleyball Camp in Lake Country led by Canadian women’s team coach Moo Park, originally from Korea.

Best move Murdoch could have made.

“I signed up to learn about volleyball and learned so much in three days,” he laughed.

How well did he learn, and how well did he teach the knowledge he gained? Murdoch’s Fulton junior girls would win three of the next five Okanagan Valley volleyball championships.

Murdoch coached girls at the school and club level, and boys at the high school level for a few years, guiding a pair of Vernon Secondary School Panthers teams to the provincial boys championships, with a ninth-place finish in Comox in 1980, and a third-place result in Prince George in 1983. He retired full-time from coaching in 1999, returned in 2002 and helped coach the Vernon Panthers senior girls team with Keith Becker, stepping away from the game in 2010.

He started the Vernon Volleyball Club in 1975.

With Murdoch, every step of the volleyball way was the former Barb Olney, also from Kelowna, whose dad ran a bicycle shop there. The pair were introduced by a neighbour and married in 1960.

When Murdoch became a volleyball coach, Barb became a manager. An organizer. A contact. A statistician. The husband-and-wife team became respected volleyball officials after Murdoch’s retirement from coaching due to rheumatoid arthritis and officiated club and high school games for five years.

“Barb did all of the organizing,” said Murdoch, none bigger than the summer of 1987 when the Canadian and West Germany women’s national teams came to the Okanagan for a week. The Canadian roster included Vernon’s Sharon Shaigec (née Weitzel, herself a longtime successful volleyball coach at Fulton Secondary) and Kelowna’s Erminia Russo.

“They played a game on a hot summer night in front of 1,000 people at the old VSS gym.”

He will share the news with Barb that the pair have been inducted into the B.C. Volleyball of Fame but, said Denis, it won’t mean anything to her.

Barb lives three blocks away from her husband, “safely and well cared for,” he said. She suffers from the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, diagnosed in 2o17. Denis, due to COVID-19 protocol, can only spend one day a week with his bride, 30 minutes per visit, six feet apart.

“She smiles as she recognizes my voice, but she doesn’t recognize me because of the (COVID-19) mask,” he said. “If she didn’t have the disease, she’d be happy we’re going into the Hall of Fame together.”

The impact the Murdochs have made on Vernon volleyball is countless. Many of his former players are still playing men’s, women’s or mixed volleyball. Many turned to coaching and/or officiating in the sport. The Hall of Fame nomination package contained 12 letters of support from former players, rival coaches and referees.

Shaigec said her volleyball career was made possible by the Murdochs, starting at the club level when she was in Grade 6.

“My journey in volleyball, my life, is a direct result of Denis and Barb’s vision,” said Shaigec, in her 31st year of coaching at Fulton, and who has gladly let the Murdochs come out of the stands from being spectators to help line tournament games. “Denis’ leadership, his commitment to coaching, and both their ability to be administrators of the Vernon Volleyball Club.”

Murdoch had four players he coached go on to play pro volleyball – the Page sisters, Brittany and Lindsay, Joanna Haaf and the late Larry Olson.

He and Barb have four daughters –Denise, Susan, Cheryl and Louise. The first two played volleyball, the latter pair score kept and helped officiate games. All four swam for the Ogopogo Swim Club in Kelowna where their dad was a coach. In fact, the four Murdoch sisters made up an individual medley relay team, each swimming one discipline.

Barb and Denis Murdoch were named co-winners of the Leadership in Sports Award in 2019 at the 26th annual Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athlete, Team and Leadership Awards.

Denis Murdoch was awarded a lifetime membership by B.C. Volleyball in 2018.

The Murdochs will enter the B.C. Volleyball Hall of Fame with athletes Betty Baxter and Tom Jones, coach Don Smyth and the 1977-78 BCO Men in the team category.

A virtual induction ceremony is slated to take place Monday, Feb. 15.

The Vernon SKY Volleyball Club is planning on having Murdoch officially open the club’s new two-court facility opposite Butcher Boys on Silver Star Road in mid-February.

READ MORE: Mr. and Mrs. Volleyball honoured at Tim Hortons North Okanagan athletic awards

READ MORE: Kelowna Knights brush back Kal


roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

From left to right. Jeremy, Ryan and Mitch Hunter are all third generation owners of Excel Tire, which will soon to become Trail Tire. (File)
3 generations later: Iconic Revelstoke tire business to be retread with new name

Excel Tire soon to become Trail Tire, but is still owned by the Hunter family

Ryan Bavin of Bavin Glassworks in Invermere. Photo: Submitted
Call for entries for Columbia Basin Culture Tour

Deadline for registration for artists and venues is April 15

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Downtown Revelstoke on March 4, 2021. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
48 COVID-19 cases in February for Revelstoke

Since the start of the pandemic roughly one out of 30 local residents have contracted the virus

About 50 people gathered Friday, March 5, 2021 in Penticton to protest city council’s decision to close a temporary winter shelter. (Jesse Day - Western News)
WATCH: Protest over Penticton shelter draws large crowd

People are gathering in Gyro Park to protest the closure of a winter shelter

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Paramjit Bogarh, connected to the murder of his wife in Vernon 35 years ago, has been relerased on full parole, one year after he was sentenced to five years in prison for accessory after the fact. (Contributed)
Full parole for ex-Okanagan man who helped wife’s alleged killer escape

Paramjit Bogarh pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after helping brother flee Canada

The Princeton Traditional Music Festival, normally held in August, was denied a grant due to COVID. (File photo)
COVID makes some of the 2021 grant decisions for Princeton council

Municipality doles out funds while striving to meet policy

Most Read