During Rob Blake’s press conference Friday morning, one thing was clear – his on-ice accomplishments speak for themselves.
But what his recent and former teammates, coaches and close friends tended to focus on were the type of person he was off the ice.
“We know what he did on the ice, we know all the numbers, all the stuff he’s done,” said Tony Granato, former teammate of Blake for five seasons (1989-1996) with the Los Angeles Kings. “What makes him special and separates him from the rest is he’s the same guy he was 20 years ago. He’s humble and as quality of a person as you’ll ever have.”
Also in attendance was Blake’s former college teammate Nelson Emerson and former Kings teammate, Glen Murray.
“[Blake was] a great teammate and great friend. I think every teammate that ever played with him or has ever been touched by him will always say, ‘hockey for sure, Hall of Fame for sure, but best person a guy could ever be around,’” Emerson said.
Murray echoed Emerson in praising Blake for the person he is and his commitment to working with and teaching others.
“[Blake is] just a genuinely nice guy,” Murray said. “He would do anything for anyone, no matter where they were from or what they did and try to teach them.
“He didn’t dislike anyone. Anyone that’s played with him was fond of him and he was just one of those really good guys.”
There were plenty of current Sharks players in attendance including, Patrick Marleau
, Joe Thornton
, Evgeni Nabokov and Devin Setoguchi, to show their support of Blake’s decision and their appreciation of his career.
“He’s a ‘professional’ athlete – when you describe the term, he’s professional in everything he does,” Setoguchi said. “He’s a great leader. He’s a character and you never see him with a frown on his face, unless it’s on the ice.
“I’ve learned a lot from him and I thank him a lot for the long ways that I’ve come in my first three years.”
The word “professional” was used often by those who commented on Blake’s career, along with terms like, “class,” “dedicated,” “work ethic,” and “leadership.”
Long-time Sharks broadcaster, Dan Rusanowsky, has watched Blake mature from a young player entering the National Hockey League with the Los Angeles Kings and playing against the Sharks, to Blake captaining the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals in 2010.
“He had a tremendous amount of energy and raw skills when he first started in Los Angeles,” Rusanowsky said. “I would say that as the years went on, the wisdom grew and he learned from his experiences. And the most important part, too, is that he was willing to share those experiences with others.”
Blake also received friendly words by telephone from Sharks coach Todd McLellan, and President and CEO of Hockey Canada, Bob Nicholson.
“We just want to thank you for doing such a tremendous job representing your country,” Nicholson said. “It wasn’t just the way you played the game on the ice, it’s the way you represented yourself…thank you very much for your involvement with team Canada.”
“I think we’re all a little disappointed that you decided to retire because we’ll miss your professionalism around the locker room,” McLellan said. “I think that when you joined the Sharks family, you set some standards both on and off the ice that are second to none and as an organization we’re going to have to live up to them.”
McLellan continued to praise Blake for his leadership and his knowledge of the game.
“Your leadership made many of our jobs a lot easier around the locker room and we appreciate you for that,” he said. “The knowledge of the game you have is something that I know our coaching staff has talked about and we’d like to tap into it as the years go on.”
The biggest laugh of the press conference occurred during a video-message sent by former Colorado Avalanche teammate Joe Sakic, when he encouraged Blake to enjoy the time off, as he had, during his first year of retirement. Sakic also noted in the message the crucial role Blake played in Colorado’s championship in 2001.
“That ’01 Cup year doesn’t happen without your leadership [and] without your great play,” Sakic said. “I’m proud to have said that I had an opportunity to play with Rob Blake.”
When Blake was asked about his immediate future and if he had plans after that, he laughed and replied that he would, “have to confer with [his] wife on that.”
Blake said he plans on spending time with his family and later jokingly acknowledged he has been signed up as a youth hockey assistant coach by Emerson and Murray.
While Blake might not know exactly what he will be doing in the future, it is clear that he will be appreciated by those around him not only for his hockey knowledge and accomplishments – but more so for the qualities he shares with them.