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Clifford ‘Fido’ Purpur


Clifford ‘Fido’ Purpur passed away on this date in 2001. The former Head Coach of the University of North Dakota’s hockey team also held the distinction of being the first North Dakota native to play in the National Hockey League.

Clifford Joseph Purpur was born on September 26th, 1912, in Grand Forks. Just under five and a half feet tall, the determined Purpur played with such speed and heart that he earned the nickname ‘Fido’ from Minneapolis sportswriter Fred Matthewson, who wrote that Purpur was “busier than a springer [spaniel] in a field full of pheasants” when playing on the ice; newspapers dubbed him Fido, and the name stuck.

As an amateur player, Purpur played with the Grand Forks Falcons and the Minneapolis Millers. He began his professional hockey career in 1933, playing with the St. Louis Eagles. At the time, there were only six National Hockey League teams, and few Americans were professional players on any of them. While that team folded after only one year, Purpur caught on with another St. Louis team, the Flyers of the American Hockey Association. The small Purpur became a St. Louis legend, playing until 1941 with the Flyers. He would go on to skate for Kansas City Americans, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Indianapolis Capitals, the Detroit Red Wings, and the St. Paul Saints. After a 14 year career, he retired from professional hockey in 1947, but he returned to Grand Forks in 1949 to coach the UND hockey team. He served as UND’s head coach until 1956, also coaching hockey at Grand Forks Central High School.

Purpur’s athletic achievements, as well as his determination and integrity of character, led to his induction into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1981, North Dakota awarded Purpur its highest honor, the Rough Rider Award. Nominators credited Purpur with creating a reputation for the state as “one of the nation’s hockey hotbeds.” The nomination also likened Purpur’s career in early hockey to North Dakota’s early pioneers, claiming that the hockey legend served as an “…example to a countless number of young men.” Today, UND’s coaching staff awards the Cliff Fido Purpur Award to players who exemplify “hard work, determination, and being a creator of excitement on the ice,” much like the award’s namesake. Purpur was eighty-eight when he passed away on this date in 2001.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job