The sound of skates carving into ice can be heard echoing throughout Varsity Arena, located in the centre of Toronto and looking upon the city’s immense skyline. Amid the anticipated adrenaline of a hockey game, you’ll find Cole Purboo, the captain of the Varsity Blues men’s ice hockey team.
As old-school rap songs from 50 Cent and Eminem fill his ears, Purboo prepares for the upcoming game with his usual Tim Hortons order — a black coffee and a raisin bran muffin — accompanied by a nourishing pregame meal of rice, fish, and lots of greens.
Sports have always played a huge role in Purboo’s life — he’s been skating since he was three years old. What most people might not know about or expect from the hockey player is that he initially learned figure skating. Still, growing up he spent Saturday nights watching the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Oakville Rangers, which contributed to Purboo’s passion for ice hockey.
Furthermore, athletics have always been a part of Purboo’s family. His mother had competed in track and field as well as basketball, which his father also played at McMaster University. The family bonds over watching and talking about sports, and even over participating in fantasy football leagues. “We pride ourselves on hard work,” Purboo mused in an interview with The Varsity. “And I think there’s no better way to characterize that other than in sports.”
He also has a lot of gratitude toward his grandparents: “My grandparents are extremely hard working and they were able to create great opportunities for my parents who worked hard to create opportunities for me… The work ethic that I have is a tribute to [them].”
In addition to his family and the Leafs, Purboo idolizes NHL players like Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash, both dominant power forwards who always used their size to their advantage.
Balancing sports and studies
This student athlete is no stranger to busy schedules and lengthy to-do lists. Currently in his fourth year at Rotman Commerce, Purboo is specializing in management with minors in economics and computer science. Purboo, who has always had to juggle hockey with school, has learned to master his time management skills.
“I’ve always enjoyed school,” he said. “And being busy actually keeps me going.” He actively makes efforts to allocate enough time for sleep, work, and free time so that he is able to achieve everything he aspires to.
For Purboo, transitioning from playing for the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to the Varsity Blues was a clear choice. He was drawn to U of T by its hockey program and wanted to be closer to home after a long four years in the OHL. Conversations with his family and Blues head coach Ryan Medel sealed the deal for him.
The supportive environment of the Blues team also played a role — in fact, it’s the basis of his leadership style. Using empathy as his guiding principle, he leads by example on and off the ice. “I try to put myself into every guy’s shoes and make sure that every guy knows that I’m there for them,” Purboo explained. He acknowledges that while being a U of T student isn’t easy, playing hockey is an escape for many and he strives to ensure that all his teammates find solace on the ice.
Behind the scenes
Behind the rush of the sport are the unseen hours Purboo has put in to achieve his success. He emphasized the sacrifices, injuries, and relentless effort of being an athlete that often go unnoticed by the supportive crowd.
“[There’s] a lot more than meets the eye,” he pointed out. He highlighted the strenuous journey that athletes go through, a testament to their dedication on and off the ice.
Purboo’s summer was a decent mix of camaraderie and hard work. He completed an internship and summer school in addition to morning training sessions before work with team trainer Nardine Oakes.
His summer also included a memorable team bonding excursion: an 18-day trip to Europe touring Portugal, Spain, and Croatia. The trip accomplished one of Purboo’s short-term goals for the team by bringing them together, allowing a good start to the season — hopefully a continuing trend. “A good start to the season helps you out way down the line because it is a long season,” Purboo explained.
Building on past successes, including a pivotal playoff victory last year, the Blues strive for even greater triumphs, aiming for a national championship.
On October 6, as the first official faceoff of the season happened where the Blues defeated the Windsor Lancers 4–1, Cole Purboo stood tall while exemplifying passion, perseverance, and empathy — qualities embodied by the Varsity Blues. He is a great example of how athletes achieve greatness not only through talent but also through determination, leadership, and sportsmanship.