If such an award existed the Brainerd Warriors boys' hockey team would probably crown Rob Blake king for a day.
The Los Angeles Kings defenseman, a former college teammate of Warriors coach Ty Eigner, has donated $5,000 to Brainerd's program. Eigner used the money to purchase sweat suits the players wear on road trips, caps for the players and jackets for the coaches.
Warriors players hope to have an opportunity to thank Blake Friday night when the Kings play the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Brainerd players and coaches will take a bus to St. Paul and hope to visit with Blake in the Kings' locker room following the contest.
"I think it's neat what (Blake) he does for high school hockey, letting us come down there, go in the locker room and meet all the other bigwigs," Warriors goalie Tyler John said. "It's really cool what he's doing for us."
Eigner said Blake made the donation through a program called Kings Care, which conducts a celebrity golf tournament each summer to raise money for various programs and charitable causes. Eigner wrote to Blake and another King who is a friend of his, Nelson Emerson, about a possible donation.
"I know budgets are tight," Eigner said. "We were trying to do something for the kids, have either a jacket or something to show they are part of the hockey program.
"Rob is one of the more popular Kings because he's been there so long. They have a big golf tournament. All profits they make go into a foundation called Kings Care. Any requests for donations are taken out of there.
"Rob called me back and said, 'It sounds great. I would love to do it. We have some money we have to get rid of.' A couple weeks later he sent me a check for $5,000."
Blake, who played with Eigner at Bowling Green University, is one of the NHL's most accomplished defensemen. A 12-year veteran he won the Norris Trophy in 1997-98 as the league's top defenseman and led NHL defensemen in goals the same season. He has played in three NHL All-Star Games, led NHL rookie defensemen in scoring in 1990-91 and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team the same season.
He is the Kings' all-time leader in scoring by a defenseman, has led Kings defensemen in scoring six times, twice has been named the Kings' most valuable player and six times has been voted the Kings' best defensemen.
His international honors include playing for Team Canada in the 1998 Olympics where he was selected the top defenseman. A year earlier he was named the top defenseman at the World Championships.
This season he has nine goals and 20 assists for the Kings, who are in third place in the Pacific Division.
"When Rob first got drafted by the Kings he was not that excited," Eigner said. "Obviously, he was excited about being drafted, but he was not gung-ho about going to LA. That was prior to the time Wayne Gretzky was traded there. Gretzky and Rob are from the same area. Rob signed after his junior year (at Bowling Green) and went right up to the playoffs. Gretzky kind of took him under his wing. Now he absolutely loves it there. He never wants to leave there.
"Rob's from a small town. His dad is a farmer. If he was not playing hockey he probably would be a farmer in Simcoe, Ont. He's the same kind of guy now, he just has more money in his checking account than he did in college. He's easy going. He lives on the beach. He's very involved in charities.
"When Gretzky left, Rob became captain. Every time I see him on TV I am more impressed with how comfortable he is in front of the camera and how involved he is. He has some big charity things going on."
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