Blake Hangs Up Skates

After 20 years in the league, Rob Blake is finally calling it quits. Yesterday Blake announced at a press conference that he would be hanging up his skates for good. The 6’4″ defenseman has played in 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and San Jose Sharks. He retires as the Sharks’ Captain. The Triple Gold Member (1994, 1997 World Championship Gold, 2001 Stanley Cup Championship, 2002 Olympic Gold) and Norris Trophy Winner accomplished a lot in his career, but he will be known best for his punishing physical presence on defense and a wicked slap shot from the point.

Blake entered the league after spending three years at Bowling Green State University on scholarship after deciding he did not wish to play in the OHL. He was drafted in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft in the fourth round, 70th overall by the Los Angeles Kings. After being drafted he played two more years at Bowling Green State University before joining the NHL. He went on to spend eleven seasons with the Kings, the last five as Captain, succeeding Wayne Gretzky. During his first stint with the Kings he won the James Norris trophy for best defenseman and appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals once and the Olympics once.

In 2001 Blake was an unrestricted free agent and he asked the Kings for the same contract Chris Pronger asked the St. Louis Blues for, three years and $29.5 million dollars. The Kings offered Blake five years and $40 million dollars. He was not satisfied. In the pre-salary cap world, the Colorado Avalanche were known for spending the big bucks as their owner, Stanley Kroenke a multi-billionaire in his own right was also married to Anne Walton (a Wal-Mart heir), did whatever it took to get the best players possible. Having recently acquired Ray Bourque the year before, the Avs were looking to deepen their blue line with another offensive defenseman with a big physical presence. In his first season with the Avalanche he made $5.267 million and after the Cup run he re-signed with the Avalanche for five years at $9 million per year. The Avalanche did not pick up his option for his final year in his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent once more. Blake would leave for Los Angeles again as a UFA because the Avalanche could not afford to keep him on in the post-salary cap world and because Blake’s wife and children wanted to move ‘back home’.

In 2006 the Los Angeles Kings acquired Blake for two years at $6 million per year. In 2007 Captain Mattias Norstrom left for the Dallas Stars. Blake came to the Kings after his best season with the Avalanche only to find his production dip. At the end of the two years Blake found himself once again a UFA with San Jose seeking him out.

In 2008 Blake joined the Sharks, his former team’s division rival, for one year at $5 million per year. At the end of the year he signed a one year extension for $3.5 million and was named Captain after the Sharks management stripped Patrick Marleau of the title. Marleau was stripped of the title after the Sharks were ousted in an embarrassing first round of the playoffs. Blake stepped in to provide proven leadership. Blake found his rhythm with the Sharks that was reminscent of his glory days in LA (pre-Avalanche) and of his tenure in Colorado. He led the team to the Western Conference Finals where they were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks.

Blake leaves the league at the ripe age of 40 having played in 1,270 regular season games with 240 goals and 537 assists. He has played in 146 playoff games with 26 goals and 47 assists. He has played in a record 55 different NHL arenas.

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