Teddy Purcell was in Edmonton Tuesday, back where it all started for him in his National Hockey League career.
The 28-year-old St. John’s native, along with fellow forward Benoit Pouliot, and defencemen Mark Fayne and Keith Aulie, are in the Alberta capital this week as the four — all acquired by the Oilers in the last couple of months — get acquainted with their new workplace and in-season home.
On Tuesday, they met with the media, and Purcell was reminded that his first-ever NHL game came on Jan. 15, 2008 in Edmonton’s Rexall Place as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
“Yeah, I got called up from Manchester (the Kings’ AHL farm club), was in the airport all day, got delayed and got in (to Edmonton) about one o’clock the night before,” recalled Purcell. “I didn’t know if I’d even play, but first shift, I got a two-on-one with Rob Blake.
“It was all a blur and I’m still thinking nervous about it,”
When asked how that rush with Blake turned out, Purcell said he tried to make a pass to the veteran defenceman, but that the puck went off his skate.
“Looking back, I should have shot,” Purcell said.
And that was another subject brought up in the media scrum — Purcell’s preference to pass.
“I used to get yelled at a lot — and still do sometimes — for not shooting the puck enough,” said Purcell, who has 75 goals and 153 assists in 410 NHL games with the Kings and Tampa Lightning.
“But there are a lot of guys here who can make plays. I’m going to be in a position to shoot a lot more this year.”
While Pouliot, Fayne and Aulie were brought in as free agents, Purcell was acquired in a late June trade that sent centre Sam Gagner — temporarily — to the Lightning.
The had a bit of a down season in 2013-14 — 12 goals and 41 points in 81 games — but the six-foot-three right-winger is being counted on to provide a significant offensive boost for the Oilers
“I was pretty fortunate to play with some high-end guys in Tampa,” said Purcell, who was on Lightning lines with the likes of Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos. “I tried to fit in where they weren’t and it’s pretty similar up here. They have a lot of high-end skilled guys.
“Wherever they put me, I’ll embrace it.”
He’s also embracing his new NHL home. This trip to Edmonton allows for some house-hunting, the chance to meet with the Oilers’ management team and coaches, and get a feel for the aspirations and attitudes of a fan base in a Canadian city that hasn’t seen its team in the post-season since 2006.
The latter was a subject brought up when the four new Oilers had supper with the team’s coaches and management group.
“They said how good the fans are, how patient they’ve been and how they’ve been waiting for the team to get back in the playoffs and be successful again. It’s going to be really exciting, it’s going to be a lot of pressure, but as an athlete, you want to embrace that pressure.”
“It’s really exciting, the history and the passion that fans have for hockey here. It’s going to something different for me,” added Purcell, also noting the throng of reporters surrounding him.
“It’s not like this down in Tampa.”