Without question, Rob Blake is one of the best defensemen in the history of the National Hockey League and with his next goal, he will move into a tie for 10th place all-time among defensemen goal scorers. Ironically, he will be tied with Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. That goal will put both of them at 237 career tallies.
Should that goal come on the power play, Blake will move into a third place tie (135 goals) with Paul Coffey on the all-time power play goal list for defensemen.
“I think the one that caught me off guard was the power play number,” said Blake. “I didn’t realize the position I was in on that. You get the goals, but you don’t pay attention until it is brought up later on.”
Blake points out he’s had some help along the way and the list is pretty impressive when he rattles off the names.
“Obviously, I started with best player in the game in Gretzky,” said Blake of his power play units. “That was pretty amazing to have him as the quarterback on the power play and just one time pucks from him. When he left I had Ziggy Palffy and he was on of the best on the half boards - the guys who played with him knew. Then I got traded to Colorado and had Joe Sakic. Now I come to San Jose and get Joe Thornton
. If you’re going to put guys in order who set up on the half boards, I may have played with three of the top five. I’ve been really, fortunate.”
Many of those same teammates would say they were the lucky ones as many of them will end up in the same club.
“The best way to describe Rob Blake is he is a candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Sharks Radio Play-by-Play voice Dan Rusanowsky. “He has won the Norris Trophy. He has won a Stanley Cup. He has been a leader on every team he has played for.”
It has been that way right from the beginning for the man who has previously represented Team Canada at the Olympics.
“He was top level and he showed that right away,” said Rusanowsky. “I think the intelligence level is high and we see it more now than ever before. He has to adjust the way he manages his body and the game. Look how quick he came back from his injury. He never looks like he is tired at a game.”
What makes Blake special is part of the game away from the ice. This summer Blake took on the extra workload of becoming the Sharks captain and his ability to make a smooth transition in the room deserved kudos.
“He has been a leader on every team he has played for,” said Rusanowsky. “He is universally respected. He has approached his job with class, honor and integrity and he has tremendous ability.”
While no spring chicken --- Blake just turned 40 in December and is the League’s elder statesman --- he still comes to the rink everyday with the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old and produces like a man half his age.
“I don’t feel like it,” says Blake about being a young pup. “The body doesn’t feel like it, but the mind feels like it. Torrey Mitchell
asks me why I always smile and I say it’s because I could be doing a lot of other things. I’ve been in other situations where it is not as much fun to come to the rink every day and I cherish these moments. It’s fun still trying to prove some things.”
In addition to the great outlook on his job and the ability to smile at about anything, there is a very professional manner to Blake’s actions.
“He never complains about anything,” said Rusanowsky. “He enjoys watching young players grow. Competition is still very important to him. To me that is a critical part to playing as long as he has. The desire to be the best is still driving him.”
During his time, Blake has seen hockey grow leaps and bounds and he has been a big part of it. Ten percent of the NHL resides in California cities and he wouldn’t mind seeing the college game that fostered him grow in the same manner.
“I would love to see Division 1 hockey out here with Cal, Stanford and UCLA,” said Blake.
“He has done a lot tot promote the game in the United States and to raise the reputation of those who played college hockey,” said Rusanowsky.
Even though the Sharks were cutting their NHL teeth playing against Blake in his prime in L.A., Rusanowsky says it was never a situation where you could root against Blake.
“He is an all-around great person,” said Rusanowsky. “You could respect him every game. He is still doing the things to make us a great hockey team. He still does everything. He can hit, skate, play lots of minutes. He is a great mentor to young players and is a pro’s pro.”
If things keep going right, Blake will be able to pass a few more people in front of him on many NHL lists.
“I trust a lot of people in the game and they will tell me when it’s time,” said Blake of when he will ride off into the sunset. “My game has changed I can live with that. There are players that I have trust in and they will say when it’s time to step aside. As long as I can help out some way I’ll still play. Every guy I talk with says stay as long as you can. As long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll stick around.”
That is excellent news for hockey fans.
3 IN THE NET A PERIOD
The Sharks scored three goals in four consecutive periods from Jan. 18 vs. Calgary to Jan. 19 at Los Angeles. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the first time in franchise history that the Sharks have four consecutive periods with three or more goals.
In response to Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, which devastated much of the small Caribbean nation, the Sharks Foundation and the San Jose Sharks will be collecting monetary donations to aid relief efforts during the game on Jan. 28 (vs. CHI).
“Tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe what has happened in Haiti,” said Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison. “There will no doubt be a long and difficult recovery process ahead and our organization is willing to do whatever we can to assist.”
Monetary donations can be made at both the North & South Entrance before the game and throughout the game at the Sharks Foundation Booth. That night’s charity auction proceeds at the Sharks Foundation Booth will also be donated to relief efforts.
All donations will be given to UNICEF in support of the organization's efforts to help the earthquake victims. UNICEF will deploy essential aid – including safe water, sanitation supplies, therapeutic foods, medical supplies and temporary shelter materials – as quickly as possible.
UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. Working in over 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more.
Because of current conditions on the ground in Haiti, item aid delivery poses quite a challenge, with roads, electric power sources, communications systems and other infrastructure destroyed in many areas. For this reason the Sharks Foundation is not seeking physical items such as clothes or toiletries at this time.
On behalf of its member clubs, the National Hockey League donated $100,000 to UNICEF in support of that organization’s efforts to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Sharks fans who are unable to attend the game may donate online at www.unicef.org; text “GIVE” to 864233” to donate $5, or call 1-800-FOR-KIDS.
The Sharks will host Anaheim Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at ticketmaster.com. The game will be available on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.