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Kings raise Blake's No. 4 to rafters of Staples Center

by Curtis Zupke /

LOS ANGELES -- Rob Blake recalled the first time he stepped on the ice to play for the Los Angeles Kings at the old Great Western Forum.

"I looked up and it was [the jerseys of] Rogie Vachon and Marcel Dionne and later in my career it was Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille," Blake said. "The one thing I wanted to communicate with you from Day One: I wanted to be up there."

That dream came true Saturday when Blake was the sixth Kings player and first defenseman to have his jersey retired at Staples Center before the Kings played the Anaheim Ducks. He is the Kings' all-time leader in scoring and games played among defensemen and their only Norris Trophy winner.

"In my wildest dreams, I didn't think it would feel this good," Blake said.

Blake said afterward it hit him when he saw former players there to greet him, and the most emotional part was when he was introduced and made the walk to the stage.

"I think it's a little overwhelming when you walk out and you see [all of it] on your behalf," he said. "For me, getting to the NHL is one thing … but I wanted to make an impression that lasts. I wanted to be fortunate to be able to play a long time and do the right things and one day have that. It kind of all comes to fruition here when you walk out tonight."

In a brief but humble speech, Blake thanked all the people that shaped his hockey career and recognized the Kings for their two Stanley Cup victories. Blake also recognized the success of Southern California hockey with the Kings and Ducks having won the Cup three times in the past eight years.

The crowd booed the Ducks, sitting on the bench, when Blake mentioned them, but it set up a funny line.

"At least someone else is getting booed," Blake said.

Blake thanked his wife, Brandy, sons Jack, 13, Max, 2, and daughter, Brooke, 12, before he made it a point to bring former defensive partner Mattias Norstrom beside him for the raising of the No. 4 banner.

"I kind of look at this as the last shift No. 4 will take," said Blake, who remains with the Kings as assistant general manager.

Blake said afterward that he thought of Norstrom a couple of weeks ago.

"For me, that was probably the one guy I played the most with throughout my career here," Blake said. "I thought it was appropriate to have him there beside me."

Norstom, a former Kings captain and a beloved player, said what it meant to have Blake as a teammate, mentor and partner.

"No person has meant more to me and my career than Rob, and no player benefited more from playing with Rob than me," Norstrom said.

Among the guests were members of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final team Kelly Hrudey, Warren Rychel and Mike Donnelly. The biggest cheers were for Vachon, Robitaille and Norstrom. Gretzky was unable to attend, a Kings official said.

Robitaille told a touching story about when Blake met a family in the 1990s in which some members had muscular dystrophy. Blake first gave them tickets to a game, and after the family said "it was the greatest day" of their lives.

"Rob bought season seats for the family and did that year after year. This went on for over a decade," Robitaille said.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi made a brief but passionate speech and said, "I can tell you there are few athletes in any sport more respected than Rob Blake."

Blake went through a rough period with Kings fans when he left in 2001, but he came back for two seasons in 2006-08 and the rift mended.

Kings captain Dustin Brown seemed to sum up the significance when he said, "We feel you're back where you belong where it all started, with the Kings family."

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