TORONTO - The 2014 inductees for the Hockey Hall of Fame were announced today and among those will be former Los Angeles Kings' defenseman (and current assistant general manager) Rob Blake, who will enter hockey's ultimate shrine in his first year of eligibility. He joins Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg and the late Pat Burns to round out this year's inductees.
Rob Blake celebrated a decorated 21-year NHL career and 14 of those were spent with the Los Angeles over two separate stints.
Drafted by the Kings 70th overall in 1988, Blake entered the Los Angeles limelight late in the 1989-90 season before helping his new team to a shocking upset of the defending champion Calgary Flames in the opening round of the playoffs. But quickly, Blake turned into a solid defenseman. At 6' 4, 220 pounds, the native of Simcoe, Ontario, became the workhorse of a Kings' defensive unit that included other talented youngsters such as Darryl Sydor and Alexei Zhitnik in addition to future Hall-of-Famers like Larry Robinson.
From 1989 to 2001, Blake would win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman and was named an All-Star on four occasions. The blueliner even helped guide the Kings to an unlikely appearance in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. During that regular season, Blake achieved career-highs in goals (16), assists (43) and points (59) before scoring 10 points in 23 postseason games. Blake would eclipse those career-highs the following year but unfortunately for the Kings, they narrowly missed the playoffs.
In 2001, Blake - along with Steven Reinprecht - was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Adam Deadmarsh and defenseman Aaron Miller. The move benefited both teams immediately.
The Kings would go on to upset the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the playoffs courtesy of an overtime series-winner by the aforementioned Deadmarsh. But the Kings run would end in the next round at the hands of none other than Rob Blake and the Colorado Avalanche who went on to win their second Stanley Cup in five years. The Cup was Blake's first - and only - as a player.
After five years with the Avalanche, Blake would return to the Kings for two years before fans started to turn away from a defenseman they once revered.
As the 2008 Trade Deadline approached, soon-to-be free agent Rob Blake was rumoured to be on the move. But Blake, who was given a no-trade clause, refusing to waive it, claiming that he wanted to finish his career in Los Angeles. As a result, the rebuilding Kings were not able to receive any compensation for their defenseman and later that summer, Rob Blake did the unthinkable, signing with the rival San Jose Sharks.
For most (if not all) Kings fans, Blake's decision was looked at as betrayal. While in principle he was free to sign with any team he wanted to, it was a slap in the face to the most loyal of Kings fans to witness Rob Blake signing with another team after claiming that he wanted to end his career as a King. Any team would have been insulting enough but to sign with such a heated rival like the San Jose Sharks, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Personally, it took yours truly a long time to forgive Rob Blake for doing what he did. For some Kings fans, forgiveness is still hard to come by.
But while he and the Sharks did reach the Western Final in 2010, Rob Blake never won another Stanley Cup. After being swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in said Western Final, Blake retired. Even still, Kings fans held hard feelings, even after their team won a pair of Cups themselves.
While forgiveness is by no means the easiest nut to crack so to speak, those fans who are still upset at Rob Blake for signing with San Jose in 2008 should, with all due respect, bury the hatchet. I certainly do understand the anger as it took me a long time to forgive him but at the end of the day, Rob Blake is human and since we have all done things we know we shouldn't have, there is no logical sense in continuing this grudge.
He may have won his lone Stanley Cup with another team but so did Luc Robitaille - and the fans of the Los Angeles Kings adore him. The circumstances of Robitaille's departure may be different than Blake's but to see any former King hoist Lord Stanley's mug in another jersey is, for all intents and purposes, heartbreaking - but it's forgivable.
In this his first year on Hockey Hall of Fame's selection committee, the aforementioned President of the Los Angeles Kings, Luc Robitaille, may have had an impact in Rob Blake induction, and why not? On top of all of his accomplishments, Blake scored 240 goals (136 on the power play) and 537 assists for 777 points in 1270 career games in the National Hockey League. This is what makes Rob Blake a Hall-of-Famer and not his questionable defection from Hollywood. While his decision in 2008 is hardly justified, it is notable to mention that Rob Blake wasn't the first Hall-of-Famer to slight his team, and he wasn't the last. Nevertheless, it's been six years. Now is as good a time as any to get over it - and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
With all that said, there is nothing left to do but wish Rob Blake the utmost congratulations on being inducted into the Hall of Fame as he joins a phenomenal Class of 2014.
This is a very big day not only for Mr. Blake but the Los Angeles Kings as an organization. It is a well-deserved honour.