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My Road: Blake Wheeler

by Chris Kreviazuk / Winnipeg Jets

Robbinsdale, MN – Earliest hockey memories:
“I had skated a bit before, but the first real memory was my first practice with my first team. My mom just kind of threw me out there and I went for it. I also remember my dad took me to a North Stars game at the old Met Center, but I was a bit too young to really follow the team at all.”

Plymouth, MN – First game: “I was playing Squirts in the Wayzata Youth Hockey Association. My dad was never big into hockey, and didn’t know too much about it. He brought a newspaper to keep himself occupied but then he saw me wheeling around out there, and the newspaper was put away pretty quick. I remember putting a few (goals) home and thinking ‘this is a pretty cool sport.’”

Plymouth, MN – Minor hockey with the Wayzata Trojans: “I played for the Wayzata Trojans all the way from Squirts right up until I was about 15, when I started playing high school. We had different coaches for each age group, but it was pretty much the same group of guys all the way up. Every one of my coaches had an impact on me, but my bantam coach Hal Tearse was the first one who was hard on me and really helped me to begin to become a more complete player.”

Golden Valley, MN – Breakout at Breck High School: “My junior year in high school was a crazy time. The year before I had tried out for the US national team and was cut, but after playing my junior season at Breck I was drafted fifth overall into the NHL, so that was kind of my taking-off season. My coach was Wally Chapman and he took me aside a couple of times and made it clear that I could either be a good player or a really great player, and taught me to expect more out of myself. It was a huge learning year, but also a really fun year.”

Raleigh, NC – Picked Fifth overall by Phoenix at the 2004 NHL draft: “I had heard whispers that I may go in the first round. My agent had a pretty good idea that I would go that high but never let me know. I was a fan like anyone else when Wayne Gretzky stepped to the podium, and when he called my name I was in shock. It was pretty crazy.”

Green Bay, WI – Growing up with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL: “I left high school before my senior year to play in the USHL. I felt I had accomplished all I could at the high school level, and wanted to test myself against bigger and older players. It was a good growing up year for me too, because I had to move away from home for the first time, so that played into it as well. It was a big year developmentally for me.”

Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN – Three years with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers: “I went from playing college right to the NHL, and a lot of that has to do with the coaching staff of the Gophers. The whole staff including (head coach) Don Lucia was great. They pushed me really hard to become a complete player. I think I went there with some bad habits and came out of there ready to play in the NHL so I can’t say enough good things about the staff there.”

Blake Wheeler with the Boston BruinsBoston, MA – Great rookie numbers with the Boston Bruins: “I think (my having a good year personally) was a product of how good the team was. We were the second-best team in the NHL that year. We had some great players there, and when you are put in a situation with those types of players it helps a lot.”

Atlanta, GA – Dealt just before 2010-11 deadline to the Thrashers: “I had heard rumblings that I may be traded, but it’s still a bit of a shock whenever you’re traded. Right after it happened I could see that it was going to be a really good thing for me. It was a chance to come into a new environment and potentially be a bigger part of the team.”

Winnipeg, MB – Becoming one of the Jets marquee players: “The coaching staff has given me a lot of responsibility, and a big role. I’m playing a lot of minutes and playing with really good players. All of that put together has really given me a lot to be excited about every game and when you are excited and having fun playing hockey, that’s when you play your best.”

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