What’s up with the National Lacrosse League being around long enough to officially have old-timers? Well, that’s where we’re at and Gordon Purdie even referred to himself as such, so we’re kicking off a series of profiles of former NLL ballers with none other than Purdie himself. Purdie’s NLL story is a good one, starting with him being the No. 5 overall draft pick in 1989 by the now-defunct New York Saints. The best part? He didn’t even know he’d been drafted. That’s the way it was back then, and Purdie was more than gracious to share his thoughts and memories.
1. What are your memories of being drafted?
“I didn’t even know there was a draft,” he said, laughing. “It wasn’t until years later that I knew I was drafted. I hate to say it, but the league wasn’t that well known then. My impression was that I was getting a tryout. I desperately wanted to play for New York but I had no idea they wanted me to play for them.”
2. So what did you think of the tryout?
“Well, I was cut. But a few games into the season, they lost a couple of guys and they called me back in. I went on to play for 13 years.”
3. How did you intially handle the cut?
“I felt I did well so when I got cut, all I did was lose sleep. For two months, I had trouble dealing with the stress of not being able to play.”
4. Did the game meet your expectations, and what were some of the bigger challenges you faced?
“New teammates was the big thing. I didn’t grow up here so the only guys I knew were the 35 guys I had played with (at Adelphi). But I didn’t really have any expectations, I just wanted to be part of the team. We were all trying to learn the game so I just ran as hard as I could because I didn’t know the game that well. I knew I had to get new equipment, though, and the rules changed a bit.”
5. Any memories jump out for you?
“On the floor, I remember it was Paul Gait or Gary Gait coming right at me toward the goal. And as he scored his 100th career goal, I was literally on his back. He carried me right to the goal and it didn’t affect him at all. I just stood there wondering what just happened. He was that good.”
6. You sound like you really had your heart set on playing.
“Yeah, I was totally committed to the game and looking back, I didn’t even dream of what I could do. The expectations were nowhere near what the game has given back to me. My first paycheck was $50 and as the money went up, I felt like I was stealing from the game that I loved.”
7. The 1990s, that was the era of spandex and mullets.
“Oh yeah. I remember guys running down the floor and if they got pushed from behind, that spandex would stick to the floor and their pants would slide right off. It happened to a few guys, it was a common problem.”
8. That floor left some pretty ripe raspberries, too.
“We needed a lot of Vaseline. That’s how we’d protect ourselves. I remember the Detroit floor being really bad.”
9. Speaking of cities, the fans were hit or miss back then, weren’t they?
“Yeah, when we played in Carolina, there was nobody in the building. But the Philly fans were unbelievable. And in Boston, they had the Fab 5 and those guys were really good.”
After his playing career at Adelphi, Purdie enjoyed 13 strong seasons in the NLL with New York throug the 1999 season, the New Jersey Storm for two seasons and when the team moved west to Anaheim, he played 10 games. He finished with 124 career games with 46 goals and 89 assists for 135 points. His biggest impact was in the faceoff circle, where he won 876 draws and also scooped 680 loose balls.
He’s quick to point out that he never officially retired and if there’s one dominant theme as he looks back, it’s that he will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to play pro box lacrosse and for the chance that then-coach Bobby Engleke took in bringing him on board.
Purdie still is very active in the game, recently finishing his third season as coach at his alma mater, Adelphi. And remember the retirement thing never being official? Purdie’s got plans to try out for the Australian indoor national team for the 2011 world championships to be played in the Czech Republic. If he makes the team, it’ll be his 8th appearance.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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