To say Meadow Lake is a small town would be an understatement. The Saskatchewan hometown of Islanders forward Blake Comeau is home to 4,771 people. It sits nearly 200 miles northwest of Saskatoon and is a nine hour drive north of the Saskatchewan-Montana border. A remote town with an area of three square miles may not sound like it would offer much to keep a young child happy, but Blake had more than enough to keep him occupied. Like most other young Canadians, he was enamored with hockey from an early age.
“My dad said I used to just sit in front of the TV and watch hockey and not even know what was going on,” said Comeau. “I learned how to skate when I was three.”
Blake’s parents enlisted him in the popular Canadian skating school, CanSkate. Just a year later, at age four, Blake was suiting up to play organized hockey. Comeau’s love affair with the great Canadian pastime had begun.
At 15, determined to ride his talent to the highest levels, Blake moved away from home to attend high school in Saskatoon.
“Well, it was tough at first,” said Comeau. “Going to a new city, new high school, I had to meet new people. But once I got there it was a lot of fun.”
Comeau lived with an aunt while in Saskatoon, and still keeps in touch with friends he made during his time in Saskatchewan’s largest city.
“It was a big part of my development for my career as well,” said Comeau of his years in Saskatoon.
Now old enough to compete at the Major Junior level, Blake played for the Kelowna (BC) Rockets of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“It was a really good organization,” said Comeau. “We went to the Memorial Cup my first three years, and won it my second year.”
The Memorial Cup is an annual, Major Junior level tournament to declare the champion of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), which is comprised of the CHL’s three member leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and the WHL.
Again, the support of his parents helped Blake focus on hockey, despite being far from home.
“(My dad) would drive 15 hours on a Thursday, watch a game on Friday and Saturday, drive home 15 hours again on Sunday, and go to work on Monday,” said Comeau. “He was very supportive.”
In 2004, at age 17, Comeau was selected by the Islanders with their second-round pick at the Entry Draft. Although he was skating on the third line of his exceptionally talented Kelowna club, he was impressive for Team Canada in the 2003 Under-18 Tournament in Russia.
He played four full seasons in Kelowna, and in 2006, he was again selected to represent his home nation in the World Junior Championships in Vancouver. He was chosen as one of the team’s assistant captains for the tournament, and scored three goals and assisted on four more over six games. He points to Canada’s gold medal run in the tournament as the most memorable moment of his still young hockey career.
“To represent your own country on your home soil, and my family and friends were able to be there, so that was probably up there as one of the most special moments for me,” said Comeau of his experience.
After the tournament, Comeau returned to Kelowna to lead his Rockets through their postseason. Despite the Rockets’ run ending at the hands of the Everett Silvertips, Comeau’s season would continue. A mere 12 hours after elimination from the WHL playoffs, Comeau was called to report to the playoff-bound Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Islanders.
At the beginning of the ensuing 2006-2007 season, Comeau was relegated back to Bridgeport despite an impressive showing at Islanders’ Training Camp. Just two months into the NHL season, Comeau was called up to the big club to make his NHL debut. However, Comeau did not have his first full NHL season until the 2009-2010 campaign, when he scored 17 goals and assisted on 18 more. It is safe to say Comeau will not have to return to the AHL, but his graciousness and humility remain, quickly crediting three of his former coaches for their guidance.
“Marc Habscheid, my first year, and Jeff Truitt were huge with me, my last few years in Kelowna. And then (former Islanders head coach) Ted Nolan gave me my first opportunity to play in the NHL,” said Comeau. “Sometimes that’s all it takes, is an opportunity. I was lucky enough to get one with the Islanders.”
Comeau’s road has taken him through Meadow Lake, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Bridgeport, and Uniondale. But for Blake, despite the constant moving, home is where the ice is.