If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Drew Doughty is throwing some high praise towards 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Rob Blake.
“That hip check he always threw when he was playing, I’ve learned to do that over the years,” Doughty said in November. “I definitely saw him do it first when I was a kid. He was a great influence on my career and was my favorite defenseman growing up.”
After establishing himself as perhaps the most rounded defenseman of his generation, Blake, a sturdy 6-foot-4 two-way rearguard, was able to cover wide swaths of ice, issue devastating open ice checks and contribute offensively with a booming shot from the point. Those attributes made him a major influence on players who grew up watching hockey in the 1990’s and 2000’s, an aspect that makes him appreciate how his career has come “full circle.”
“Maybe it means I’ve been around too long,” Blake joked when speaking with LA Kings Insider on Monday. “It’s funny, because I was probably in Drew’s situation at a young age. The guy that I probably looked up to was Larry Robinson. Drew in 20 years from now, there are going to be some young kids coming into the NHL saying, ‘Hey, I looked up to a guy like Drew Doughty.’ To me, it’s part of why we play.”
But that hip check – only Chris Pronger could be held in the same breath with the most punishing and mobile open ice hitter of his era. It put to use so many of the fundamentals that made him such a tremendous athlete – the mobility, the speed, the ability to read the play and sense the perfect timing to become involved.
And it all came naturally in the development of the Simcoe, Ontario native who fully realized that he possessed a devastating element in his skill set while at Bowling Green.
“It’s funny, because I can’t really pinpoint why or how I went about doing it. It just seemed the most effective way for me to be able to hit someone,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s being able to skate, or your lateral mobility or what adds to it, or maybe reading a play or something, I think it just kind of evolved, and it really didn’t start until probably in college that I started doing a little more of it. It just seemed like the most effective way for the way I play to be able to throw bigger hits. Fortunately, it kind of went that way throughout the career. I work with a lot of young kids in that, and I don’t have anything I can tell or teach them how to do it. It was just something that kind of came natural and developed throughout the career.”
He’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame on November 17 in Toronto along with Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, former Colorado teammate Peter Forsberg, the late Pat Burns and referee Bill McCreary.
“I think part of the whole Hall of Fame selection, when you look at the players, I’ve been to a few ceremonies over the past few years because I’ve had a lot of teammates start going in that direction, the one thing they all have is a certain amount of class,” Blake said. “You look at Modano and Hasek and Forsberg and the late Pat Burns and McCreary, I mean, that’s kind of how they’ve all operated throughout their years, with a certain level in class. I was fortunate – with Peter, I spent a lot of time in Colorado with him, so it’ll be nice to kind of catch up with him in November, You kind of go your own separate ways when you’re done playing, but you always have some things in common with some of these guys.”
USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen, the recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, and Chicago Blackhawks play by play announcer Pat Foley, the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, will also be inducted.
The great honor continues of a year in which he was named the General Manager of Hockey Canada’s World Championships entry and won a Stanley Cup as an NHL executive as the Kings’ Assistant General Manager. The outside accolades represent continued validation and appreciation of his work on the ice and in the front office, and they also help to reinforce the “full circle” of his career to this point.
“It’s funny – I think one thing that you reflect back on when you’re in these types of situations is how you got here. Not let alone the years you played in the NHL, but how you got there. By far the family is the most important thing. The things they had to sacrifice when I was young growing up, and then you turn that into your own family. We’re driving our kids to the rink and my wife’s taking them on trips when I’m working now with the Kings. Like I said, not only has playing come full circle, but so does the family aspect of it. It’s great, because it’s an honor to be in that group, but it’s also shared throughout your family.”