No longer hurt, motivated Purta having fun
His drive this season is anchored on the sorrow he endured last season.
Kamil Purta, a senior at East Leyden who skates for the co-op Leyden Eagles, is in his third season on the team that also features players from West Leyden, Elmwood Park and Ridgewood. He is a right-handed shooting right wing who skates alongside senior center Jordan Niedziela and junior left wing Jordan Cruz.
Weeks after his junior season started, Purta was bumped during practice, falling on his left side. The accident was serious and he ended up at the hospital, and had season-ending surgery last November. Purta had suffered a torn labrum.
"It was difficult — going to the games, watching and knowing I couldn't play," Purta said. "That's been my motivation this season ... knowing this is my senior season, so I know I have to give it everything I have.
"I'm now (feeling) better than ever. Everything is great (with my shoulder), and I am happy to be skating and playing again. The shoulder is fully functional, strong, better than ever."
Purta, who lives in Schiller Park, is one of eight seniors on the 19-player team, half of which attend East Leyden.
The Eagles are 2-2-1 in the 11-team Illinois Suburban Hockey League, led by the co-op AWF Renegades, and also featuring Brother Rice and Homewood-Flossmoor, among others.
"We're doing pretty well this season, though we need to improve our defense, as well as our passing and shots on net. But it's a solid team," said Purta, who has 2 goals, 2 assists in the team's first 5 league games. "I think we'll have a great season, be able to compete with others (in the league)."
Niedziela leads the team in scoring: 5 goals in its first 5 league games. He also is the son of the Leyden coach, Mike Niedziela, who tagged Purta as, "one of the hardest working players on the team, by far, probably in the league."
The elder Niedziela, in his seventh season leading Leyden, added: "Kamil's hustle and dedication are off the charts, and they were sorely missed last year. He's a good leader who hates to lose. He's one of the most intense players I've ever coach, and also one of the most enjoyable players I've ever coached."
Purta's on-ice strength comes in his passing and back-checking. He considers himself, "an offensively defensive player," meaning, "I play offense, but I'm always back to play defense."
Purta added: "I'm very determined, always working hard, trying to be positive, and leading the team."
Purta, 17, was born in Bialystok, Poland, and came to the U.S. in 1999, at age 3. English is his second language. Hockey could be language 1A, only behind Polish.
"One of my career highlights was, as a sophomore, when we went to an out of state tournament in Indianapolis. We just had a lot of fun — on and off the ice," he said. "We had a lot of team bonding on that trip; it was fun and beneficial, too."
Hockey certainly is fun, once again, for Purta.
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