The Kerry Park Islanders are in town to take on the Save-On-Foods Oceanside Generals Saturday, and one thing’s for certain, the Islanders’ bench has extensive playing experience.
Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, head coach Dale Purinton was selected fifth overall in the 1995 NHL draft.
Listed as 6’3”, 226 pounds, Purinton, ‘a feisty defenceman who’s play and ability to move the puck up ice was a valuable asset,’ spent five seasons lacing up for the NHL’s New York Rangers; his last in 2004/2005.
Along the way he spent five seasons in the WHL, two in the ECHL, and six in the AHL. His best season was in 1996/97 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes where, including 18 playoff games, he posted nine goals and 31 assists along with 342 penalty minutes in 69 games played.
He played his final season with he AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.
Previously a head coach with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Purinton joined the Islanders last December when current owner Mark Osmond, an area businessman, took over the team.
And while The NEWS wasn’t able to connect with Purinton this week, Osmond confirms the Islanders’ coach heads into this season having just signed a contract extension with the Isles that takes him through the 2015/16 season.
The Islanders, said their owner, “are coming off a couple tough losses to Nanaimo and Victoria so we’ll be coming to Parksville looking to get a couple points. It will be a tough place to play as always, but sometimes an away game is just what the doctor ordered. I think as long as our team can stay out of the penalty box it should be a good game.”
In the bigger picture, Osmond said he likes where the VIJHL is heading, and reaffirms its commitment to the up and comers.
“Jr. B isn’t about importing players, it’s more of a development league and we want to push our local players through to the next level,” he said. “I’d say 75 per cent of our team is local, which us something were trying to do, however you still have to add some supplemental players from out of town — you still have to put a good program on the ice.”
Having a head coach like Purinton who has been to the big show, he adds, “definitely helps.”
And while Purinton may have been a brawler back in the day, Osmond said that’s not the style of hockey he preaches.
“Not at all. He’s a good coach for the kids. He’s not a yeller. If a kid makes a mistake on the ice, he’s not going to berate them. The kids respect him. We had a couple players come here this year because they know Dale will teach them more things because he’s been there done that.”
Closer to home, Bill Dutton, owner of Pheasant Glen Golf Resort and a new stakeholder in the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, spoke with The NEWS last Saturday after belting out the national anthem prior to the start of the Generals/Storm game.
Dutton’s passion for hockey developed during his days growing up and raising a family in Saskatchewan, where he not only sang the anthem for the local Jr. A hockey team, he was also the ‘president, manager, scout, bus driver and skate sharpener’ for the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL.
A big believer in the power of sport, Dutton said the Generals are an important part of the local hockey community, and help further the game at the grassroots level.
“It’s very important. It gives the rink something to build on, and for the little kids, the peewees and the bantams, to look up to,” he said, adding the fact the VIJHL boasts two or three players now suiting up in the NHL, “just shows what can happen if you work hard enough, especially at the younger ages.”
Heading into the weekend the Islanders do not have anyone in the VIJHL’s top 20 in scoring, nor do the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, who are in town to face the Gens Sunday afternoon.
Captain Travis Flug remains the only General on the list, currently sitting 10th with four goals and seven assists for 11 points in seven games.
All three teams are at the bottom of the list in special teams, with Oceanside currently ninth with a power play percentage of 6.82 (three goals in 44 PPs) and a penalty kill percentage of 79.17 (having given up 10 goals in 48 PK’s).
The Glacier Kings and Islander are seventh and eighth respectively both with PP%’s of 9.09 and PKs of 71.74% and 73.33%.
The VIJHL’s first place and still undefeated Nanaimo Buccaneers (7-0) by comparison lead the league in special teams with a power play percentage of 29.55 (13 goals in 44 opportunities) and a potent penalty kill of 97.62 per cent, having given up one goal in 42 short handed situations.