PURCELL AND ADAM LOOK BACK ON CHASING TELUS CUP GOLD
While they’ll serve as event ambassadors for this year’s TELUS Cup, it wasn’t that long ago that Ted Purcell and Luke Adam were the ones on the ice with the blue maple leaf on their chests, representing St. John’s in the quest for a national title.
Hopes were high entering the 2003 National Midget Championship – a 14-year-old Sidney Crosby had racked up 24 points in seven games just one year earlier, helping the Atlantic Region to its first-ever medal, a silver for the Dartmouth Subways.
Prior to the Subways’ run to the final, only three Atlantic teams had ever even reached the semifinals: the Dartmouth Forbes in 1985, St. John’s Avalon in 1986 and the Dartmouth Subways in 2001.
Now it was time for Purcell and the St. John’s Maple Leafs to carry the Atlantic banner, looking to run the medal streak to a modest two years.
The Maple Leafs started slow, losing their opener 4-1 to the Yorkton Harvest, but rebounded to hammer Sault Ste. Marie 6-2. A loss to Quebec’s Collège Antoine-Girouard set up a must-win game against the Waterloo Wolves, with both teams entering the game at 1-2.
Purcell, now starring with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, pitched in with two assists as St. John’s carried a 4-1 lead into the final six minutes before holding off a late Waterloo charge and earning a 4-3 victory, sending it to the semifinals.
The dream for gold ended with a 3-2 overtime loss to Collège Antoine-Girouard in the semifinals – the Maple Leafs held a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes before watching the Quebec champions come back – but St. John’s made sure it was taking a medal home from Sault Ste. Marie one day later against Yorkton, tying the bronze medal game with 23 seconds to go and winning on Brad Smith’s overtime winner.
“We had a strong team, a fast team, and I think we surprised some other people as much as we surprised ourselves,” Purcell says eight years later. “We were the first team from Newfoundland to ever medal at the tournament and we were so close to moving on to the gold medal game.”
For his efforts, Purcell, who had a goal and five assists in five round-robin games, earned Tournament MVP honours.
“I didn’t realize what we accomplished until the banquet at the end of the tournament,” he says. “I was sitting with the guys when they called my name for MVP. I don’t even think I moved. I was sure they confused me with somebody else. I got a cheque and a watch that my dad still wears very proudly. It was there that I really thought maybe I could do something with hockey.”
Eighteen (and undrafted) at the time, Purcell’s performance at the National Midget Championship caught the eye of the hockey world. A little less than five years later, on , he made his NHL debut with the Los Angeles Kings.
Three years after Purcell helped bring home bronze the Maple Leafs once again stepped into the national spotlight at the TELUS Cup, with a 15-year-old Luke Adam in the line-up.
And with Charlottetown, P.E.I., playing host, the spotlight was even brighter on the Atlantic champions.
Just like in 2003 the Maple Leafs split their first four games, although this time it wasn’t enough to automatically book a final four spot. A loss to Calgary in their final round-robin game left St. John’s needing the host Islanders to upset Châteauguay, but a 4-0 win by the Quebec champions left the Maple Leafs even with the Patriotes at 2-3 and on the outside of the semifinal picture looking in thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“I thought we had a good team,” says Adam, who contributed two goals and two assists during the tournament. “The coaching staff was excellent. Most of us went on to play in the Quebec League so the exposure was great. But we got off to a poor start. We lost by just a couple of goals to the Quebec team and it was hard to make up ground after that. I think they (Châteauguay) ended up winning bronze. It was tough to not move on, but to lose out to the team that won bronze was a little easier to take.”
Adam’s 2006 TELUS Cup exploits helped make him the first-round pick (seventh overall) of his hometown St. John’s Fog Devils in that year’s QMJHL Entry Draft, and he helped Canada win silver at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship.
A second-round pick (44th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Adam made his NHL debut on October 26 and put up four points (three goals, one assist) in his first 18 games.
Although he’s very early in his NHL career, Adam already has bragging rights at home – when he stepped onto the ice for his ninth game he passed his father, Russ, for most in the family, and goal No. 2 pushed him to top spot in that category. Russ Adam played eight games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1982-83.