by PuckStopsHere on 06/11/10 at 11:26 AM ET
Now that the off season has arrived, there will likely be a few retirements of future Hall of Fame players. The first one has not been officially announced yet, although the story broke during the Stanley Cup finals. Rob Blake is retiring.
Rob Blake was born December 10th. 1969 in Simcoe, Ontario. He grew up playing hockey in the Ontario hockey system and made it to the junior B level before jumping to the US college system to play for Bowling Green University in Ohio. In those days there were significantly more junior hockey opportunities for Canadians in the US system than there are today. After his first year in Bowling Green, the Los Angeles Kings selected him in the fourth round of the draft 70th overall. Blake was a big talented defenceman, but he had yet to show dominance at any level.
He returned to Bowling Green and began to develop. He made the CCHA (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) second team All Star the following season. By his third year, he was on the CCHA First All Star Team and an NCAA West First-All American, as well as a nominee for the Hobey Baker Trophy as the top player in US College hockey. Three years of college was enough for Blake. When the Los Angeles Kings came calling with a contract he signed and made his NHL debut late in the 1989/90 season.
Blake only played four regular season games in his first NHL stint and did not score any points, but he made an impression in the playoffs. Blake managed four points in eight playoff games. That strong showing helped him to earn an NHL job for next season. Blake’s 46 point rookie season from defence was strong enough to earn him a spot on the NHL All Rookie Team. Blake began to develop as the top Kings defenseman. In 1994, he made the NHL All Star Game for the first of seven times with a 68 point season. When Blake was about ready to jump to superstardom, knee injuries almost ruined his career. He was limited to 24 games in the lockout shortened 1994/95 season and only six games in the 1995/96 season. Nevertheless he found himself healthy enough to be named to the Canadian World Cup team for the 1996 World Cup. Blake made a solid showing in four games played before coming back with the Kings. By 1998, Blake won the Norris Trophy and made First Team All Star in the NHL. He also competed for Canada in the Olympics and was named the top defenceman in the Nagano Olympics. He made Second Team All Star in 2000. Then his expiring contract led the rebuilding Kings to trade him to the Colorado Avalanche.
Blake was traded with Steve Reinprecht for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, Jared Aulin (who at the time was a player to be named later) and two first round draft picks (2001- Dave Steckel and 2003- Brian Boyle). It was a steep price for a free agent to be. Blake paid off for Colorado and was a big part of their 2001 Stanley Cup victory. Blake made Second Team All Star again despite his trade that season. He re-signed in Colorado. His 2001/02 year in Colorado gave him his third straight Second Team All Star appearance and his second Olympic appearance. Blake was part of the gold medal winning Canadian team in Salt Lake City. Blake remained with the Avs through the lockout in 2004/05 and made his third Canadian Olympic Team in 2006 for the Turino Olympics. When his contract ended that summer, Blake returned to Los Angeles as a free agent.
Blake spent two years back in Los Angeles as a member of a relatively young team that failed to qualify for the playoffs. When his two year contract completed, the rebuilding kings decided to go in a different direction. Blake moved on to San Jose to complete his career.
Rob Blake spent the final two years of his career with the Sharks. He was a key contributor to the end of his career. Even in his final season in the NHL at age 40, Blake was third on San Jose in ice time per game, playing over 21 minutes each game.
Blake can still play at the NHL level, but nevertheless is retiring. A contributing factor to his retirement may be the NHL CBA, which is very restrictive to players 35 and older, often forcing them to complete their careers with a series of one year contracts and hence forcing them to contemplate retirement annually when their contracts expire.
Blake retires with 1270 NHL games played. He scored 240 goals and 537 assists for 777 points in that time. His 1679 career penalty minutes places him 92nd on the all time list. Blake is remembered as one of the hardest hitting defencemen of the 1990’s and one of the best in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. His great career seasons almost never occurred because of knee problems in his early career that he outgrew.
Rob Blake’s retirement leaves us with sixteen active hockey players on my list of players who belong in the Hall of Fame based only upon present achievements in their careers. Here is the list:
As the summer progresses, it is likely that there are a few more retirements.
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