Dennis Murphy, Impresario of Alternative Leagues, Dies at 94

Dennis Murphy, Impresario of Alternative Leagues, Dies at 94

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After serving in the Army in the Philippines, Mr. Murphy attended the University of Southern California, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics.

For most of the 1950s and the early ’60s, Mr. Murphy worked at an engineering firm. For two years during that period, he was the part-time mayor of Buena Park, in Orange County.

His fascination with sports leagues continued with the creation in 1981 of Team Tennis, also with Mr. King, after World Team Tennis failed in 1978. Team Tennis would later adopt the name of its predecessor and rechristen itself World Team Tennis. And in the early 1990s, Mr. Murphy, Mr. King and Ralph Backstrom, a former N.H.L. player, formed Roller Hockey International, an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of in-line skating.

“We believe we can be the No. 1 hockey sport,” Mr. Murphy told The New York Times in 1994.

But the league played its last season in 1999, when the champion St. Louis Vipers won the Murphy Cup. One of his mistakes, Mr. Murphy told The Hockey News in 2019, had been expanding to 24 teams in the league’s second season.

“We should have kept it smaller and then expanded,” he said. “But we did it for money. I had a lot of contacts through my other leagues. Everybody wanted to get in because of our success in the other leagues. So they put pressure on me, and I fell for it.”

Besides his son, Mr. Murphy is survived by his daughters, Dawn Mee and Doreen Haarlamert; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

The A.B.A. did not have a national television contract and struggled for attention. The Floridians, for example, had bikini-clad cheerleaders, an idea that came from a publicist.

“The idea was that we needed to get attendance at the games,” Mr. Murphy told The Reno Dispatch, a blog, in 2013. The cheerleaders, he added, were always on the visitors’ side of the court “so the visiting players would look at girls rather than pay attention to the game.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.


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