Even though we could only manage a 20 minute chat before his physiotherapy session, Anton Purver was able to provide a lot of detailed personal insights on hockey and what the game means to him. Purver tends to play down his own game, happy to concede that others are more skilful, but emphasises he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a deeper understanding of the game.
We started by reminiscing about Canterbury contact hockey a decade ago, when there were extremely competitive high school and junior club leagues producing a rich vein of talented players, with some of them, like Adam Soffer, Dale Harrop, Ryan Ruddle, Paris Hyde, Nik Stefanissin and Steven Vlok, still playing in the NZIHL today.
Anton laments the collapse of both the junior and senior contact leagues in Canterbury at that time because it denied younger players the same opportunities to reach their full potential. “It is no coincidence that, with the exception of Chris Eaden, there is a five-year age gap between myself and the younger players in the current Red Devils squad because that is when everything folded,” he said.
Purver has been a Red Devil for twelve years getting his start in the 2008 season after spending a year in the team’s wider training group. He didn’t truly start playing hockey until he was 15 years old – a few years later than most. But his passion ensured he was on the ice for every training session and game he could be on the ice for. When he was 17 he went to Toronto for 6 months and while he didn’t play for a team there, he played at least six pick-up games a week, occasionally managing to sneak into senior games.
As a real student of the game, Purver has always asked questions and gleaned as much knowledge as possible from his own and other coaches as well as senior and import players. “I had to kind of figure out ways to get ahead and for me it was gaining knowledge about the game,” he explained.
From the beginning Purver was down at the rink watching and learning from senior contact games. He has also studied coaching, which led to a six month stint in Germany, helping a junior team there.
Purver is perhaps a little too modest about his contribution to the team. He is a real team player and as the Red Devils’ third line centre, he talks more about his role in fore-checking and getting deep into the corners and forcing turnovers. “I’m not out there with the objective of scoring goals, if I get injured going into the corner it’s just part of my job helping the team,” he stated. And it is just that kind of help that gave Anton two assists in the recent pre-season games against the Dunedin Thunder.
Purver is very enthusiastic about the team this year, saying “It all starts from the top, with good management and strong vocal communication.” He noted that there is renewed confidence among the players as well, “That’s the difference to last year – the confidence the players have in each other and for the team to be able to score goals even from being behind.”
At thirty, Anton Purver is as competitive as ever, but he does have an eye to the future. He talked of “getting involved in the coaching side of hockey”, improving his golf game (shot 79 at his last outing!), finishing his business course and continuing developing his venture into web design.
Main photo: Chris Morgan