May 06, 2006

Fido Purpur

I'm not making it up folks. That's his name. Fido Purpur.

Its a great name eh? Say it two or three times. Fido Purpur. Fido Purpur. Fido Purpur. I bet you can't do it without cracking a grin! Drag the "ur" in Purpur. Fido PurrrPurrr. *giggle* It has all the makings of a great party game, eh?

Clifford Joseph Purpur was his real name. So how did he get the nickname "Fido?" Well, this is what Total Hockey has to say about the subject:

"How Yogi Berra's favorite player, Clifford Purpur, was dubbed "Fido" is enough to keep any researcher on the edge of his seat. Purpur himself reveals that a Minneapolis sportswriter named Fred Matthewson reported that Cliff was 'busier than a springer (bird dog) in a field full of pheasants.' The next day the name was
made public and it stuck."

Okay, works for me.

Fido Purpur was the first North Dakota native to become a National Hockey League player. He achieved this at a time when there were only six NHL teams and an American player playing on any of these teams was an oddity.

He is also a bit of a legend in St. Louis hockey circles. He began his NHL career in St. Louis in 1933-34 with the Eagles. He played in 25 games and scored 1 goal and 3 points. The Eagles, formerly known as the original Ottawa Senators, folded after just one season. Purpur elected to continue his hockey career in the city of St. Louis. For the next 6 seasons he played for the AHA's St. Louis Flyers. He was a standout for the Flyers, particularly in the last 4 seasons. His best season came in 1938-39 when he had 35 goals and 43 assists in 48 games. He added 3 goals and 6 points in the playoffs as the Flyers won the AHA championship.

Purpur was a fan favorite in St. Louis. Though he was very small at 5'6" and 155lbs, he entertained with great speed and heart and determination. Purpur could be compared to a Theoren Fleury although didn't take as many penalties.

Purpur left St. Louis in 1941-42 and joined the AHA's Kansas City Americans. That season also marked his return to the NHL as he appeared in 8 games with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Though he failed to score a point in the 8 games, Purpur was brought back to Chicago the following training camp and made the squad. He did quite okay for himself too. In his first full NHL season he scored 13 goals and 29 points. Purpur saw action on a line with the famous Bentley brothers - Max and Doug. But by playoff time his role had changed to that of defensive specialist. It was Fido's job to shadow a young Montreal player named Maurice Richard. The two teams faced off in the Stanley Cup finals but Montreal easily won in 4 straight games.

Fido played for another year and a half with the Hawks before he was demoted to the minors in the 1944-45 season. Late in the year the Detroit Red Wings acquired him in exchange for Byron McDonald. Purpur never saw action in the regular season with the Wings, but did in the playoffs. Purpur helped the Wings reach the Cup finals but again his team fell short, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Purpur was traded back to the AHA's St. Louis Flyers in the summer of 1945. He played one season there before playing one final pro season with the USHL's St. Paul Saints.

After his active hockey days were over, Purpur returned to his native state to live and work in Grand Forks. He gained further success as a coach at Grand Forks Central High School and the University of North Dakota. He was later inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.


Anonymous said...

Fido Purpur was my grandpa and i believe it was an honor to grow up and be around him. He lived an unreal life and like one said A life that not many dare to dream. He accomplished more than many do dream of. He was a great hockey player and a better grandpa to me and i miss him all the time like he'd say "LOVE YA KID"

Unknown said...

I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Purpur, but one of the greatest memories I have regarding him is still with me to this day. I went to GFC and met Emily Purpur. I told her one day everything I knew about his professional career along with his coaching excellence and a week later I had a 5x7 signed by him. "To my friend Alan, Lots of Good Luck. Your friend, Cliff "Fido" Purpur." It's the most treasured piece I have in my collection, even more valuable to me than my Williams, DiMaggio and Mantle signed piece. Mr. Purpur is truly the King of GF/ND Hockey.

Bob Bergman said...

I grew up with all of Fido's boys and spent many hours at the kitchen table listening to his great stories about his Pro Hockey days. He is without a doubt the most awesome person I ever met in my life. I miss his stories even today after all these years have gone by. God Bless Fido Purpur.

Anonymous said...

I'm Riley Purpur and i still cant believe that one of my ancestors did such amazing things


Jeff C said...

I am very proud to be the great grand nephew of Fido Purpur (on my mother's side). I knew Red Wings blood ran through my blood somewhere. Jeffrey Corbid

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what Fido's sweater number was when he played for the Blackhawks? I want to order a "throwback" jersey for my husband (who is Fido's great grand nephew).

Joe Pelletier said...

Purpur wore 4 with Chicago

Emily Purpur Marto said...

This made my day to read this. I am so glad I was able to make that happen for you and even more happy that you still have it and have that memory! My grandpa was the sweetest man and I am so glad that his memory lives on with so many people. Al - my grandpa passed away my 2nd year at Central so i am pretty sure you got the last or one of the last signed pictures of him. Im glad its with someone who truly cared! Thanks to all who have commented.

Anonymous said...

My dad recently passed this past Thanksgiving. He had dementia but his long term memory was there. My grandfather was a sports writer for the St. Louis newspapers so my dad got to see a lot of sports around St. Louis. A few years ago, I was watching a St. Louis Blues game with my dad and I asked him who his favorite player was. He didn't even think, and right away he said Fido Purpur. I thought he made the name up. He also added that he was a #9, good left winger. My brother and I looked it up the next day, and in 1941 Fido Purpur, #9 Left Winger. Played a year and a half with the St. Louis Flyers. My dad was 14. Is there any place to get a throwback jersey? nooch16@charter.net

seanreit said...

My dad hired Fido to teach a bunch of ragtag texas kids to play hockey around 1983 ish. Recently had a conversation that brought this all to memory, I spent a few weeks with Fido, and he was amazing! Seanreit@gmail.com. If anyone knows, I thought he told me he scored a natural hat trick in less than a minute but can't find that on the web, I do remember he taught me about the lie of a stick, because I'm short like him, he used a lie 3! I don't even think you can buy that today!

Grandpa Tim said...

I am having dinner with my 93 year old motherin law who shared a story of herb sweet sixteen party in Forest Park hotel when a Fido Purpur came in and joined the party! She recalls that event today!