Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning's Teddy Purcell reaches new heights

Teddy Purcell, who has five goals in the series, celebrates one in the second that puts the Lightning ahead 3-2. He also scores 36 seconds into the game.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Teddy Purcell, who has five goals in the series, celebrates one in the second that puts the Lightning ahead 3-2. He also scores 36 seconds into the game.

TAMPA

The growth marks on the wall began low, but the boy always dreamed large.

Even when he began high school back home in Newfoundland at 114 pounds. Even when he went undrafted the first time. And the second. And the third, too.

It took a long time for the marks on the wall to grow to the size of a man. And it took even longer for the hockey world to seem to notice.

Today, the growth chart is complete.

And Teddy Purcell seems larger than Tampa Bay itself.

The skinny, little kid that no one wanted has finally caught the attention of the entire NHL with a burst of scoring in the Eastern Conference final, including two more goals in the Lightning's 5-4 victory against the Bruins on Wednesday night.

"I was such a late bloomer. I always dreamt of playing in the NHL, but I really didn't think I ever would," Purcell said after Game 6. "It seems like yesterday I was living at my parents' house playing street hockey every day after school.

"Hopefully, those memories stay with me a long time."

Purcell has five goals in six games against the Bruins, but that doesn't come close to telling the story of his impact.

It was Purcell who rescued the Lightning at home in Game 4 when he cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2 with goals just 63 seconds apart.

With the Lightning facing elimination in Game 6 on Wednesday, Purcell showed up again with two goals, including the go-ahead score in the second.

"Teddy is certainly one of those guys who's learned a lot this year," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "He's put a lot of effort into it. It's not something that's just happened. He's worked really hard at it."

This is not the story of a grade school prospect with scouts parking their fancy rentals in the family driveway. And this is not the story of a kid waiting around the phone waiting for an NHL team to call on draft day.

Purcell, 25, is the same age as Boston's Patrice Bergeron but has about 100 fewer NHL goals. He attracted almost no attention in high school and very little when he moved to Iowa to play in the United States Hockey League.

The University of Maine showed some interest but not enough to offer him a full ride when he was first eligible. They told him to grow a little in juniors. So he played a year in the Saskatchewan league and two more in the USHL.

By the time Maine came through with an offer, he was already 21 years old.

"His freshman year was my senior year, and the running joke is that he actually committed to Maine before I did," said Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin. "They wanted him to improve and put on a little more size. They said they didn't have room or scholarships or whatever, so they kept telling him to go back to juniors."

To hear Purcell tell it, the problem wasn't just that he wasn't big enough. He also wasn't quick enough. And wasn't tough enough either.

By the time he reached Maine, Purcell had grown to slightly over 6 feet, but the NHL still seemed like the longest of long shots.

"When I got the scholarship, I was thinking, 'I can help my parents. I can get a free education and have a good American degree to fall back on,' " Purcell said. "I figured after four years, who knows, I may get an NHL tryout and see where it takes me."

It didn't take that long. Purcell lit up the net as a freshman and, suddenly, he had multiple NHL teams offering him a free agent deal because he was no longer draft-eligible.

He eventually chose the Kings, figuring it was the quickest path up the depth chart.

Purcell had eight goals in 91 games during parts of three seasons in Los Angeles, and the Kings eventually lost patience with him.

Even in Tampa Bay, it took Purcell time to understand the rigors of the NHL. He was up and down for much of this season before finally graduating to play on Tampa Bay's top two lines.

"He's been through a lot. We sat him one time in the stands. After that, he had a tendency to understand faster," Boucher said. "I always knew he had the skill, and I always knew he was a really good payer. I don't think he knew how good he was."

There has never been much reason to recall former GM Brian Lawton with anything but dread. His time in Tampa Bay was mostly chaotic and almost entirely depressing.

For once, however, he is owed a bit of thanks.

The trade for Purcell looks brilliant today.

Lawton dealt an aging Jeff Halpern to the Kings for Purcell and a third-round pick. The pick was used to select Brock Beukeboom, and Steve Yzerman would later deal him and a third-round pick to bring Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay.

Halpern, by the way, never scored a goal for the Kings before leaving as a free agent.

That trade, like Purcell, is growing larger every day.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Teddy Purcell reaches new heights 05/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 6:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. History shows Ole Miss upheaval tough to overcome

    College

    After Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze resigned Thursday, with the opener six weeks away, offensive line coach Matt Luke is being thrown into an interim head coaching position. He will try to save a season that already had been scarred by a self-imposed bowl ban for NCAA violations.

    After coach Jim Tressel resigned, Ohio State went 6-7, including a loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, in 2011.
  2. Bucs add top executive from MLS to business side

    Blogs

    The Bucs have hired a top executive from Major League Soccer to their business operations in Atul "AK" Khosla, who has spent the last six years as chief operating officer of Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire.

    Atul Khosla, 38, spent the last six years as chief operating officer of MLS' Chicago Fire. He joins the Bucs as their new chief corporate development and brand officer.
  3. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  4. For starters: Souza not in lineup vs. Rangers

    Blogs

     

  5. Remember that famous Fred McGriff TV commercial? He's back, in a parody

    Blogs

    If you've ever seen Fred McGriff's TV commerical for Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills video it will always be fresh in your mind, with the deadpan delivery and famously ill-fitting cap.

    Fred McGriff in his new commercial for Chassis, a men's grooming line, that looks a lot like his old one.