During the long grind of an NHL season, roommates on the road spend a lot of days and nights together, whether they want to or not. With that in mind, even the most compatible of teammates could be excused for heading in opposite directions as soon as the season ends. When the Lightning playoff run ended in Boston, one game shy of the Stanley Cup Finals, Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell wasted little time in getting out of town, but instead of going their own ways, the two friends took off together for six days in Ireland.
“We both thought it was a pretty good idea,” Thompson recalled. “How many chances do you get to go to Ireland, we figured, so why not when we had the time?”
Purcell didn’t need much convincing. Raised in Newfoundland, where many of the locals trace their roots back to Ireland and England, the Emerald Isle was a real presence in his life growing up.
“It’s always been a place I heard people talking about,” Purcell explained. “They always talked about how green it was over there in the summertime and how friendly the people were. It was always somewhere I wanted to go.”
Once the decision was made, Thompson wasted no time springing into action.
“We talked about it and five minutes later Nate said he had it all booked,” Purcell said. “He booked the flight and the hotel; he had it all taken care of.”
Two days later, Thompson and Purcell were checked into their hotel in Dublin. That’s when Thompson noticed that his friend was less than happy.
“When we arrived, Teddy complained every now and then,” Thompson said. “But I just let it go in one ear and out the other.”
“He said I complained a lot?” Purcell laughed, when informed of Thompson’s remark. “Darn right! I give him credit for making the arrangements, but I also give him credit for booking probably the worst hotel in all of Ireland.”
The worst hotel in Ireland? Surely that’s just an exaggeration.
“Listen,” Purcell continued. “I don’t have a dog but if I did have a dog, I wouldn’t let him stay in the hotel that Thompson booked.”
Guess Purcell meant it.
Anyway, the boys ruled out the option of switching to a different hotel and just roughed it out for the duration.
“We stay in nice hotels all year, so we just said, ‘hey, we’re in Ireland, who cares,’” Purcell said. “I guess it’s just part of the experience. The hotel did have a great location – right in downtown Dublin, so that was ok.”
Everything beyond the hotel problem seemed ok, too.
“The Temple Bar section, where the hotel was, is a big tourist spot,” Thompson explained. “They have pubs and restaurants and shops and we met people from all over the world.”
“There is a great mix of people over there,” Purcell agreed. “Every time we met an American girl, we were disappointed because we wanted to meet Europeans. That became our standing joke: we didn’t come all this way to Ireland to meet Americans.
“Did Nate tell you about that joke? He’s been known to steal my lines,” Purcell quipped.
While in Ireland, Thompson and Purcell mostly ate like the locals, sampling traditional Irish dishes like Sheppards Pie, a casserole with beef and vegetables on the bottom and mashed potatoes baked on top, and enjoying other local customs.
“I’ll say this,” Thompson recalled. “The Guinness was fresher over there.”
One thing they intentionally managed to avoid, for the most part, was the NHL Stanley Cup Finals between Boston and Vancouver.
“We only saw a little bit of that,” Thompson explained. “At that point, we just wanted to get away from it. The playoffs were such a mental and physical grind. Watching the Finals was not our top priority.”
“It was awful to watch,” Purcell affirmed. “I never felt like that about hockey before. I just kind of wanted to get away from the game for a little bit.”
Other than the disappointment of watching the Finals on television rather than appearing in them, the trip was all they had hoped it would be.
“The most fun was hanging with the locals,” Thompson said. “It’s amazing how friendly they were. They go out of their way for you. Another big thing was the live music. No matter where you were, there was always live music and a real friendly atmosphere.”
Purcell enjoyed the pubs and the live music, too, but found something much more seemingly mundane to savor.
“Just sitting down and having a beer with Nate. Just two buddies that are grateful for what we’re able to do, made the trip a great experience. We just sat back and reminisced about a great year.”
After the trip, Thompson and Purcell went in separate directions and ironically, they were as far distant as one can get in the North American continent.
Thompson headed home to Alaska and a few days at a fishing camp isolated in the woods, four miles downstream from the village of Iglugig, before he started his off-season workout program. Purcell went to his home in Newfoundland to stand up for his best friend at his wedding and enjoy some home cooking.
“I’m 25-years-old and big enough to take care of myself, but my mom still spoils me,” Purcell laughed.
What the trip did provide was a chance to look back and reflect on the past season, and to also look ahead. That was a prospect both players relished.
“In the end, I don’t think what we accomplished was surprising,” Thompson said. “When you approach the season like we did and continue to get better every day like we did, the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Next year, that’s our ultimate goal. I think every guy on the team would feel the same way.”
“We talked a lot about how you may be happy and pleased with how things are going, but you’re never satisfied,” Purcell added. “We put high expectations on ourselves last year but now we’ll be exactly the same. If we don’t get back to where we were and go even further, it will be disappointing.”
Will next season be followed by another Thompson-Purcell international jaunt? Too early to tell, especially considering that the plans for the Ireland trip were almost completely made at the spur of the moment. Besides, Thompson and Purcell are still enjoying the memories of this year.
“It was definitely worth it,” Thompson said. “It was everything I expected.”
“It was six days I’ll always remember,” echoed Purcell. “I’ll go back there someday.”