The Mens’ World Hockey Championships are well underway in Europe. Despite not having the same reputation as Olympic hockey over here in North America, the WHC does provide fans with a great look at some international talent. To be asked to play in this event is, and always will be, a great honor for players. Team Canada, this year, has iced a very strong roster from top to bottom. Headlined by the young stars of the Edmonton Oilers and the big guns of the Anaheim Ducks, Team Canada is poised to possibly finish with a gold medal. However, it’s not the Getzlafs and Eberles of the world that we should be watching. Two players on Team Canada’s roster have had to defy all odds to get where they are today. Those players would be Teddy Purcell and Alex Burrows.
When you think about the values of the North American lifestyle, Purcell and Burrows exemplify them to a tee. Fans of the Vancouver Canucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning know exactly what these two bring to the table. Purcell and Burrows are arguably the two hardest working players in the league. They have fought for every minute of ice time and every ounce of fame they have received through the great game of hockey. The purpose of this column is to show the rest of the hockey world just what these two have managed to do despite every odd possible being stacked against them.
Purcell’s journey to the NHL is a most interesting one. After going undrafted, Purcell made his pro-debut in the Los Angeles Kings organization with the Manchester Monarchs. Early in his pro career, Purcell was granted a taste of NHL action playing 10 games in the 2007-08 season with the Kings. Purcell was a prolific scorer in the AHL scoring 83 points in 67 games during his rookie season. From there, it looked as though he was going to have a long, long career in Los Angeles. The 6’3”, 202 pound winger looked like he was a diamond in the rough just waiting to be uncovered by the right organization. Unfortunately for Purcell, the offensive prowess he showed in the American Hockey League didn’t translate to the NHL with the Kings. In 2008-09 he scored 16 points in 40 games with the Kings. While those aren’t totals to sneeze at, it was tough for King fans not to want more from their AHL star. More never came.
On trade deadline day in 2010, Purcell was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning with a third rounder in exchange for Jeff Halpern. From the outset, the deal made sense for the Kings; they were gearing up for a playoff run and Halpern was the grizzled veteran whose leadership could be counted on during the tough stretches of the post-season. Unfortunately, games aren’t played on paper and the Los Angeles Kings were eliminated in the first round that year. On the other side of the deal, Teddy Purcell was just about ready to make a huge leap in his development under head coach Guy Boucher. In the 2010-11 season, Purcell went on to score 51 points in the regular season and then nearly a point-per-game in the Lightning’s massive playoff run. The deal became a steal.
This past season, Purcell continued his development. For the first time in his NHL career he scored more than 60 points. For a kid who went undrafted and fought to make the pro-ranks from the USHL, Purcell is absolutely living the dream playing on a line with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. The sky is the limit for the guy who calls Newfoundland home. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher all gave Purcell a chance and he is now running with it.
While Teddy Purcell’s road to the NHL was certainly an interesting one, Alex Burrows’ is even more inspirational. Prior to highlighting how Burrows got to the NHL, I want to take a second to emphasize that the reputation Burrows has around the NHL is most undeserved. This guy is, in my opinion, the hardest worker in the game. You can hear it when he talks and see it when he plays; Burrows doesn’t take a shift off. Hopefully Burrows can get back into the WHC to show fans and opposing players alike that he is a good guy. His passion for the game is unmatched and he deserves so much more credit for what he has done over the past few years.
Alex Burrows, like Purcell, went undrafted. Unlike Purcell, however, nobody knew that Burrows’ offensive talents even existed. Burrows played in the QMJHL and was never a prolific scorer. In fact, his numbers were average at best. After going undrafted, Burrows entered the pro ranks with the ECHL, a third-tier minor league. Burrows’ big break came in 2003 when he played a couple games with the Manitoba Moose, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate. Over the next few years, Burrows began to establish himself as a fourth line player with the Moose. His energy and passion for hockey was noticed by the Vancouver Canucks and he was called up to the Canucks in 2006. From 06 to 09, Burrows established himself as a checker who could agitate with the best of agitators. He played on the Canucks’ third and fourth lines over the course of the three years mentioned. Then, in 2009, Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault went out on a limb and placed Alex Burrows on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. From ECHL player to 35 goal NHL player, Burrows is a champion of doubt. Nobody gave this guy a chance and now, and now he plays on one of the best lines in hockey.
Both Alex Burrows and Teddy Purcell deserve to be recognized for the jobs they do. They form one of the hardest working duos on Team Canada at the World Hockey Championship. Anybody who hates Alex Burrows for his “antics,” I challenge to you watch the Vancouver Canucks for a few games next year. Watch the games, watch the pre and postgame interviews and look at players in the community. I assure you that Alex Burrows is one of the most likable people in the game. Teddy Purcell is the exact same way. Here’s hoping that Team Canada can give these guys the international success they so undoubtedly deserve. From undrafted players to Canadian superstars, Burrows and Purcell have proven everyone wrong. It’s a great story to follow!
Thanks for reading.