A king for much more than a day

Bradley Bouzane
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Teddy Purcell signs an NHL entry-level contract with Los Angeles

St. Johns native Teddy Purcell has agreed to a two-year contract with the National Hockey Leagues Los Angeles Kings after just one season with the University of Maine Black Bears. University of Maine photo

Teddy Purcell grew up watching Luc Robitaille when he was tearing it up for the Los Angeles Kings. Now he knows how the future Hall of Famer likes his eggs.

I had a pretty special day in L.A. because I woke up and had breakfast with Luc Robitaille in downtown Beverly Hills, said Purcell, the 21-year-old St. Johns native who signed a two-year entry level contract with the Kings on Friday.

Purcell was signed as a free agent, having never been drafted, and says Robitaille, the King alternate governor, gave him great advice because he was a late-round pick.

He (Robitaille) is real professional and after that, I went back to Rob Blakes place and was hanging out there with him and (assistant coach) Nelson Emerson, so I was a little shocked. Looking back now, it was really special.

After having the luxury of picking from numerous suitors before making a decision more than two-dozen NHL team contacted him Purcell set his heart on Hollywood and hopes to make his mark in a town known for acting, not hockey.

His contract includes a $170,000 signing bonus and if he stays with the NHL club, hell make $850,000 a year. His annual salary in the American Hockey League would be $62,500.

Exciting, and tough

It all means Purcell has the most exciting summer of his life ahead of him, but also his toughest.

Its weird because (hockey) is a job now, Purcell said in a telephone interview Sunday night from the Halifax airport, as he prepared to return to Orono, Me., to complete his semester at the University of Maine.

Ill have to prepare myself more and work hard this summer to get ready for the next step and hopefully Ill some success.

Purcell left after only one season at Maine, where he was the Hockey East conference rookie of the year and helped the Black Bears advance as far as the NCAAs Frozen Four semifinals.

Hes not sure where hell start the new season, whether its in Los Angeles or in Manchester, N.H., with the AHLs Monarchs. He wont be joining the Monarchs this spring, because they are out of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Whichever team he ends up with in the fall, he says hell be fine with situation.

If I do get sent down to the AHL, I have no problem with that, but I want to get up (to the NHL) as quick as possible, said Purcell, who admitted the desire to take the fast lane to the NHL is what ultimately led him to choose the Kings.

It was an unbelievable situation to be in because at the end of the day, there were probably 25 teams that had contacted me, he said. The offers were similar across the board and I had to go where my gut feeling was.

His short list came down to Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and the Toronto Maple Leafs, with whom his Maine teammate Michel Leveille signed an amateur try-out contract last week.

The Great One, among others, came calling

(Phoenix coach) Wayne Gretzky called and then going to Toronto and seeing all that and Pittsburgh with their youth, it was hard to know what the right fit was. But I woke up one morning and I knew L.A. was the place I had to be, said Purcell.

They have a lot of youth and theyre a rebuilding team known for giving their young guys a chance and thats important. You dont want to go with a team that has a track record of having older guys and relying on older free agents.

Purcells route to the big time might be a year or two delayed because of his decision to attend university and forego Canadas major junior leagues, but the right-winger is fine with the path he has taken.

School isnt for everyone and some people develop quicker. If I was to (skip school) and turn pro earlier, it would have been last year and I was a smaller guy and I dont think I would have been ready for that, said Purcell, who hopes to add 10 pounds to his six-foot-three, 182-pound frame during off-season training with St. Johns fitness guru Bob Thompson.

If I went major junior, things might not have worked out, Im here now anyway, and once youre here, they dont ask how you got there everyones on the same page.

With the potential for fame and fortune within reach, Purcell knows he has to appreciate his opportunities and stay grounded. Hes using the time hes spent with some of the NHLs finest as a guideline as to how to conduct himself on and off the ice.

I was in shock and first, going to a courtside Lakers game and being wined and dined out there (in L.A.), he said. Im just a kid from Newfoundland seeing all this, but I have a good family and I feel mature enough to keep things in perspective. People wont respect you if you change your person.

Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake could go around and be cocky, but they arent. They started somewhere, too. Seeing those guys and how much respect they have and how they carry themselves, thats how Id like to be in a few years.

I just wont have to ask my dad for 20 bucks when I go out anymore.


Organizations: NHL, Kings, Los Angeles Kings American Hockey League Monarchs University of Maine Toronto Maple Leafs Lakers

Geographic location: Los Angeles, L.A., Beverly Hills Maine Hollywood Pittsburgh Halifax Orono, Me. Manchester, N.H. Tampa Bay Phoenix Toronto Newfoundland

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