- photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club
Opening night seemed like a blur. All the build up and then it was over. Months of planning, weeks of anticipation, days of finalizing details for October 9th. It was the home and season opener for the 2014 team and a celebration of the 1984 team. Past and present mixing and mingling. It was incredible to see Jordan Eberle trading laughs with Glenn Anderson or Leon Draisaitl chatting hockey with Mark Messier. I was 17 when they won that Cup. I celebrated on Jasper Avenue like thousands of other Edmontonians. The scene that has played out over the last few days seemed surreal. Imagine how Teddy Purcell felt to be a part of all of the above.
Undrafted to now playing in a Canadian market and making it known he likes that. After the first period of Thursday night's game he said he enjoyed Tampa Bay. However, the winger went on to add that he didn't mean it disrespectfully but voiced his opinion that playing in Edmonton, a true hockey market, was great. Alright, it wasn't a great finish to the night. Expectations were high and so were emotions for everyone in the building. You can include Purcell in that category. He had been wondering what opening night would be like. With all the former Oilers stars watching, Purcell wanted to put on a show for them -- but more importantly, for his new team.
He didn't disappoint as he will go down in the record books as having scored the Edmonton Oilers' first goal of the 2014-2015 season. One down and who knows how many more to go. Purcell came to Edmonton on June 29. The player acquired for Sam Gagner. While it was a one-for-one deal, he wasn't replacing Sam. The two different in size, positions and expectations.
Purcell was brought to Edmonton to give them some goals but to give them some depth, some size and a different look. A bigger one and a necessary one for a club looking for that right mix. Teddy Purcell, at 6'2-198 pounds, helps that happen. His penalty minutes have always been low. Rough-housing isn't his style. He may not bull you over but the 29 year old, to quote Tom Petty, won't back down. A player who can complement what the Oilers already have and he looked comfortable alongside opening-night linemates David Perron and Mark Arcobello.
A St. John's, Newfoundland born future NHL'er who went to the famous hockey breeding ground of Notre Dame. There was a stop in the USHL before a one-year visit to the University of Maine. LA was the team that gave Purcell his chance. He went to their AHL affiliate in Manchester and piled up 83 points in 67 games. It earned him rookie-of-the-year honours and some time with the Kings. Eventually he was dealt to Tampa Bay. Another warm-weather city and that's where he started to heat up, putting together 51 and 65 point seasons. The latter included 24 goals. It is that player that the Oilers went looking for in late June. In early October they found him.
Opening night 2014 will be remembered by many people for many different things. For Teddy Purcell he'll remember time spent around Wayne, Mark, Paul, Glenn, Jari and company. He'll also never forget his first goal as an Oiler. Right from the start he was Ready Teddy.