An ISN Exclusive by Scott Harrigan
September 28, 2012, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Hot on the heels of Island Sports News’ controversial interview with Red Wing VP Jim Devellano, ISN’s Scott Harrigan caught up this past week with Vancouver Island resident and former New York Ranger Dale Purinton to get his comments on the NHL lockout and his perspective on the comments levelled by Devellano.
Purinton, who was featured in a One-on-One interview with ISN back in October of 2010, spent 11 years as a professional hockey player, 181 games of which were with the New York Rangers in the NHL. A flamboyant and often controversial player on the ice, Purinton has mellowed a bit with time, but offers some candid remarks on the lockout and on the response to Jim Devellano’s comments and provides some excellent insight on the situation from the perspective of a former player.
ISN: Thanks Dale for tallking with us. First, give us your thoughts about the article ISN wrote on the interview with Jimmy Devellano.
“Well first let me say it takes balls for a guy in that position to come out to you and disclose his personal feeling towards the lockout, but make no mistake he knows what he’s doing and as an ex-player, and player rep for 5 years in the NHL for the New York Rangers, I will say he knew exactly what he was saying and who he was saying it to so kudos to the man for that.”
ISN: ” What do you mean by that? Was he coached, or did he have to ask permission before speaking with me?
“Well if I’m not mistaken, Detroit is original 6 team with a huge history in the game and I’m guessing has PR guys or media guys up the ying yang, so you would have to assume he asked a few people first before he made the call. All I know is that he’s been around 45 years in the game, 30 with the same team, so he knows how to keep his job. When Ii played, they taught us what to say and who to say it to and we had no shortage of people around coaching us on how to conduct interviews.”
ISN: “OK cool, so did you agree with what Mr.Devellano had to say to ISN?
“I did yes, it’s refreshing to read the truth for a change. Not to say other reporters don’t write truths, but to hear it from a guy that high up is amazing and again full marks to the guy. Now if you really want to get into it lets get into it. The owners of these teams are the “ranchers”, and so what? We are the “cattle?” Should we be offended by that? Hell no. I mean I’ve been called worse and as players, are we that soft that it hurts our feelings? Of course not. We’re men playing a very tough, rough sport. So “cattle?” Fine, knock yourself out, but what does that make the rookies then, veal?”
“What I found to be interesting though is blaming the owners for this mess. I mean if I read the article correctly he said, “Why are the fans so quick to jump on Bettman, they should be blaming the owners.” This is new to hear from a senior VP, but he’s right and I don’t understand the fine that was imposed. Don’t you want passion? Don’t you want character in the league? That is certainly what we try do do on the ice. For me I love seeing Brooksie [NY Post reporter Larry Brooks] and John Tortorella going at it and Burkie [Toronto GM Brian Burke] asking Kevin Lowe to a barn dance!”
ISN: So can you explain the UNWRITTEN rule if there is one?
“OK now were tap dancing a bit close, but I’ll say this Scott, as a player we have unwritten rules out there – and God knows I didn’t follow them all the time – but I would call it more of an “old boy’s club.” Why I say that is because these GM’s, assistant GM’s, coaches, assistant coaches, etc., in today’s game have played together or against each other for years, growing up through the ranks together some as far back as minors and they are now some of the smartest hockey minds in the game. That’s why the owners hire them. I mean are you telling me these owners – the “ranchers” – have a clue about hockey? Come on! These are are billionaires who made their money in other businesses and and thought, “Cool, I like hockey, I think I’ll buy a team.” But given the fact that they’re loaded, they also have the smarts to say, “OK, who are the smartest men in hockey? Go get them and run this for me will ya?” I don’t think a single one of the 30 owners made their dough owning a NHL team, it came from somewhere else first.”
ISN: It seems to me that the owners are taking a hard line stance and don’t really care about sitting out another year.
“Well yes, look at what the players are doing. They come at Bettman (Ranch Hand) with an offer and another offer and more offers and they all get turned down. Are you telling me all the owners are sitting around saying, “Let’s settle this thing because the fans are getting a little tired of this and were going to run the risk of loosing them despite our bottom end?” Well no, I don’t think they care one way or the other if they lockout these guys this year, or next year or whatever. These owners are hardline, no nonsense business guys who don’t want to lose money at any cost. Does this mean, as Jimmy puts it, with the vote 30-0 to lockout the boys, that they are all on side and agree? No way! I can’t buy that all these owners are sitting around their phones on a conference call agreeing with each other. However, the majority have an issue with how much they have to share with the players, so they’re going to bully these guys to cave like last time in 2004.”
“Players want to play. Players have to work. I mean I don’t see too many players with 150 foot yachts with helicopters on the back sitting around having “pops” on the deck. Owners know this. They don’t need the money and to be honest, I don’t think they care what the fans think. But what gets me is how can you blame a player for something you offered them? So what are you doing? Do you want all these agreements to protect yourself from yourself? All the player wants to do is to play the game for what he signed for. I have talked to players who signed huge deals and didn’t perform up to the price of the contract, but what’s a player to do? Not sign for what he is offered? I don’t think so!”
ISN: What does it take to decide this is what you want to do for a living and be a player in the NHL?
“It takes a lot of sacrifice Scott. I mean I was playing minor league hockey back home with my father and brothers my entire childhood as a kid loving the game. It wasn’t until juniors that I thought I might have a shot at the “show.” You are away from family, friends…hockey is your life and that doesn’t stop after you make it. It’s a full-on commitment to the game, to the team, to yourself as a man. It’s not something you can go to school for. It’s very hard to make it and you have to be mentally and physically strong but you need to get breaks too. I mean when you hit Pro, don’t kid yourself…it’s all about winning, it’s not fun anymore. You are there to win and if you don’t, there’s going to be changes. That’s the business.”
ISN: Any last thoughts on this lockout?
“Yes. Another thing that people don’t think of is all the other people that need these games, the employees for example at the venues. Maybe a Grandpa and Grandma selling programs, papers and they make maybe $200-$300 a month and that’s just enough to offset their old age pension. What are they going to do? I’ve seen it with parking attendants, food vendors, restaurants…I mean the list goes on and on. These are real people who depend on this and it makes me sad that these owners aren’t smart enough to put their egos aside and get a deal done. They had seven years to get this done, and they come to us and say, “The league made $3.3 billion, it’s better then it has ever been, TV deals are set, only 2 teams hit their cap, etc.” All this bullshit, yet you’re not making enough money?? Shame on you, it’s a joke!”