PlayerBorn Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, December 10, 1969
Blake had started his TGC quest with a gold at the 1994 World Championship, another historic win for Canada in that its previous gold was back in 1961. In between the two international championships, Blake led the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in 2001, crowning glory to an NHL career which was every bit as illustrious as the one he forged with Team Canada.
Blake’s path to greatness was atypical for a Canadian defenceman in that it started at Bowling Green, a CCHA team in U.S. college. After his first year he was drafted 70th overall by the Los Angeles Kings, in 1988, a clear indication that he was a promising prospect but not headed to the NHL right away. Two more years with the Falcons, though, and Blake turned into that rarity among blueliners—a large and physical defenceman with plenty of offensive skill and an ability to lead.
In truth, Blake was a captain four separate times in his career. He wore the “C” for Canada at the 1999 World Championships as well as twice with the Kings and late in his career with San Jose.
Blake didn’t take long to make an impact with Los Angeles. He joined the team for the final few games of the 1989-90 season, and three years later the Kings were in their first Stanley Cup finals, losing to Montreal in six tight games.
When Wayne Gretzky was traded to St. Louis at the deadline in early 1996, it was Blake who assumed the captaincy after 99’s departure. Blake wore the “C” for the next five years before he, too, was traded, to Colorado, in February 2001. Midway through his tenure, in 1997-98, he played in his first Olympics, in Nagano, and at season’s end he was named winner of the James Norris Trophy in the NHL.
Arriving to a team on the cusp of greatness, Blake proved to be the missing ingredient to ultimate success for the Avs. A veteran, a composed leader, a stud on the blue line who could play half a game or more, he helped the team to its first Cup win in 2001, just a few months after joining the team.
In all, Blake played 20 years in the NHL, more than 13 with L.A., and he retired in 2010 with 1,270 regular-season games to his credit. But his dedication to Team Canada is what set him apart during his career. Most years he was available for the World Championships, he accepted the invitation, and he represented his country with pride and, of course, success. In all, he played in five World Championships, three Olympics, and the 1996 World Cup. In addition to the aforementioned gold medals in 1994 and 2002, he also won gold at the 1997 Worlds during which he was named IIHF Directorate Award winner as Best Defenceman.
A pillar of strength on the blue line, Rob Blake epitomized victory, for Team Canada and for his NHL teams, for some two decades.