DETROIT – Erica Blashill can’t pinpoint the time that she met her eventual husband on the campus of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Though she does remember thinking he was driven enough to reach whatever lofty goals that he set for himself.
“I actually always knew that this would happen,” Erica Blashill said. “I wasn’t sure when or what the path would be or how he would get there. But very rarely does he – if ever – put his mind to something and not actually achieve that goal. So when he said he wanted to be a coach in the NHL I knew that at some point it would happen.”
It happened alright.
Her husband, Jeff Blashill, was introduced as the 27th head coach in Red Wings franchise history on Tuesday. The former head coach of the club’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, signed a four-year contract through the 2018-19 NHL season.
“We’re excited and really proud of Jeff,” Erica said. “It’s a next step on our adventure and this is kind of what we’re been working for. He’s been hoping for and working so hard for. It’s what we were planning on and we’re excited.”
The characteristics that drew Erica to Jeff, who was a two-year starter on the Bulldogs hockey team, are still very much the foundation of who he is today.
“We were really young,” said Erica, of forming her first impressions of Jeff. “We were in college, but even then he was a very serious player. He took every game extremely serious. He was always prepared and took every loss – he was a goalie – so he took them very hard and personally. He was the same that he is now, very driven, very serious, but has a great sense of humor and a great personality.”
Upon graduating from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Blashill accepted a graduate assistant job at his alma mater working for his former coach, Bob Daniels. From there he got married, started a family, and took on a variety of different coaching gigs in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
“It’s not an easy thing to be a spouse or a kid of a coach,” said Blashill, who has three young children, Teddy, Josie and Owen. “My oldest is nine years old and this will be the sixth city that he’s lived in. But it’s been a great journey together. We look forward to the next one here in Detroit. It’s just been awesome.”
Blashill’s desire to become an NHL head coach convinced him to take a leap of faith – similar to what his father did 40 years ago by moving the family from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula – that has brought Jeff and Erica back to metro Detroit.
“It’s something that he talked to me about when we were first starting out on this,” Erica said. “I don’t think that either of us fully grasped what all of the moves would be. It’s hard to understand all of it until you’re really in it, but we definitely knew this would be just part of the job. It’s just something that everybody does.”
Jeff was born in Southfield and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, while Erica, was raised in New Boston and graduated from Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview. What is comforting is that Erica’s family is still in the Detroit area, and Jeff’s parents, Jim and Rosemary, and siblings, Debbie, Lisa and Tim, are all only a few hours away.
As for being the wife of a lifelong coach, Erica hopes, at least for the children’s sake, that Detroit is home for the foreseeable future.
“Every place that we’ve been we’ve been excited about being there, and fully grasping that these opportunities are rare and to appreciate them when we have them,” Erica said. “We’ve always been excited to be where we are, and with kids they obviously make friends and have teams and different things everywhere that we are.
“I think this move can be tougher than the other ones, just because are kids are getting a little bit older. They’ve got some great friends in Grand Rapids. We really liked it there. We were there for three years, and I think once your kids are in school and on teams and making those friends, especially our eldest son, I think that will be a little bit tough. But they make friends everywhere that we go. That’s one benefit of us moving around a lot; they’ve gotten used to that and they’re good at making friends. I think they will be fine.”