Friday, June 25, 2010

Leading the Way: Rob Blake

A few days back we saw one of the great leaders in the game call it quits after 20 hard fought NHL seasons.

Rob Blake grew up in Simcoe, Ontario playing for the local minor hockey association alongside current NHL goaltender Dwayne Roloson. The two would lead their hometown to two Ontario Minor Hockey Association Championships.

Soon after, Blake played Jr. B hockey in the Midwestern Ontario Jr. B league until he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1986 OHL Priority Selection by the Sault Saint Maire Greyhounds. However, Blake never dressed in a game for the Greyhounds but instead opted to get an NCAA scholarship. This led to him signing with the Stratford Cullitons. Blake also played for the Bowling Green State University Falcons of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, after receiving a scholarship. Blake played three years at the college level, receiving an All-Star Team award in 1990.

In the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, the Los Angeles Kings selected Blake 70th overall. That 70th overall pick would go on to be a very valuable pick for the Kings squad. In his rookie year of 1990-91, he scored 12 times to accompany 34 assists for 46 points. He and a certain "Great One" would lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final in 1993. In 1996, he was named team captain and he would hold this title with the Kings until 2001. Amongst those years, he earned a Norris Trophy in 1998.

Before he could become an unrestricted free agent, Blake was traded to Colorado during the 2001 season. The impact of such a leader and competitor like Blake became evident, as that season he and the Avs would bring home the Stanley Cup. Not only did his size and hard-nosed style contribute to the effort, but he also put home 19 points in the 23 playoff games. Let's just remember, he was a defenseman!

Blake would resign in Colorado and remained with the club until 2006. That's when he was reunited with his Kings, signing on for 2 years. Realizing Blake's leadership abilities were still superb, the Kings renamed him team captain in 2007.

In 2008, Blake signed on with the San Jose Sharks and reached the 40 point mark for one final time, this time at the tender age of 39! That season saw him record 10 goals and add 35 assists for 45 points. After extending his contract for another year with the Sharks, it is no surprise that he was named the captain of this team as well! He held this title until his retirement on June 18th of this year.

Blake was also a mainstay on Team Canada at both the Olympics and World Hockey Championships. He was on Team Canada for the World Hockey Championships in 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998 and 1999. During these appearances he earned 3 golds and a silver medal. He won a silver at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 as well. Team Canada also came knocking on Blake's door for many Olympics. He played in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics for his nation, capturing the gold in 2002!

Blake's points as a defenseman were quite remarkable, in a total of 1270 NHL games he tallied 240 goals and assisted on 537 more for 777 points! His best season was in 1994 where he scored 20 goals and added 48 assists for 68 points. However, looking throughout his stats he was always a consistent performer. As previously mentioned, his 6' 4" and 225 lbs frame was very solid on defense and quite intimidating. He was not a player you wanted to mess with, as shown by his 1679 PIMS. Internationally, he recorded 23 more points in 58 games. Blake truly was an killer combination of power, offense and leadership that any team would love to have.

Although he may not be quite as storied as the other "Number 4," not everybody gets to play alongside goaltender Justin Timberlake against the Leafs for the Stanley Cup! Stellar performance in "The Love Guru" too!

Does Rob Blake belong in the Hall of Fame? I think it's a YES!


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