Most kids who grew up playing hockey, remember their dad as the guy who drives them to practice, helps them get their gear on and tie their skates. He’s the guy who taught them everything they know when it comes to the game of hockey.
Blake Wheeler’s dad didn’t teach him the game of hockey, he taught him how to set his goals high and understand the price you need to pay if you want to reach them.
“He never played a hockey game his entire life, but he played a lot of other sports,” explained Wheeler.
“He didn’t know how to help my skating ability, or my shooting ability, or anything to do with hockey, but as an athlete, he knew what it took to ultimately reach my goals. From an early age I knew I was pretty serious about being a hockey player, and he taught me about hard work and how to engage with the game.”
Wheeler says his dad would describe himself as maybe not the most talented kid growing up but always one of the best players on the team because he wanted it more than anyone else.
“I think that was a valuable lesson growing up,” he said. “Its not always the most talent or the best kids that are going to reach their goals, it’s the kids that are the most drive and that are going to put in the time and effort to get better that will reach their goals.”
When asked for one specific time when his dad was really there for him, he remembered a tough time back in high school.
“I was in my sophomore season and I had had a good season. I was trying out for USA hockey and got cut near the end of tryouts, and I was really bummed. Being eliminated was pretty crushing for me, but I remember, he was the one to give me the news and he told me that, ‘You just need to show them that they’re wrong. I know that you can do it, and I know what you’re capable of doing, just go and prove them wrong.” Exactly one year later I got drafted fifth overall.
“It was crushing at the time, but I remember those words he gave me, and from that point on I knew that I was going to be just fine and have a good season.”
He said, 'You know, I think tomorrow’s the night, I think you’re going to get it at home,' and I ended up scoring my first. - Blake Wheeler
More recently, he looked back to the start of the 2011-12 season in Winnipeg.
“I didn’t have the greatest start to last season. I remember talking to him the night before I scored that first goal. It wasn’t that much about hockey, it was just about life and the way things were going. As we were closing, he said, 'You know, I think tomorrow’s the night, I think you’re going to get it at home,' and I ended up scoring my first.”
Although his father is not hugely involved with his professional career, Blake reassured that he is still a big part of his life and is always there when he needs him.
“He’s not really involved other than when I reach out to him. Sometimes when I need to hear his words, or just talk, he’s the guy I always go to.
“He still has a profound effect on my career by just being a good dad.”