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San Jose’s Blake calls it a career after 20 seasons

Associated Press / June 19, 2010

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Early in his 20th season, Rob Blake realized that this would be his final one as an NHL player.

Even as he performed at the level of a player younger than his 40 years, helping the San Jose Sharks reach the Western Conference final, he didn’t waver. Blake made his decision official yesterday, announcing his retirement from a career that will most likely end at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I knew it was the right time. I have no regrets,’’ he said. “I understood it was time to move on.’’

Blake leaves the game on his own terms, still able to play at a high enough level to compete, and healthy enough to do it for another year if he had wanted. But he also knew he was no longer quite the same player he was a decade ago.

“I know I had slowed down in different aspects,’’ he said. “When you’ve played at a certain level and can’t accomplish some things . . . I would watch video and I’d see I was a step slow there. A lot of people might not see it, but I knew inside.’’

Blake’s career includes helping Los Angeles advance to the Stanley Cup final in 1993, winning the Norris Trophy for the Kings as the league’s top defender in 1998, hoisting the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001, and earning an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2002. He is 10th on the career list with 240 goals as a defenseman. He finished with 537 assists and 777 points. His 136 power-play goals are third most by an NHL defenseman, trailing Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (173) and Al MacInnis (166).

He helped San Jose post the top regular-season record in the West in each of his two seasons with the team but was unable to get the Sharks to their first Cup final. The Sharks were swept by Chicago in this year’s West finals.

“He’s an elite-level player but he has a blue-collar heartbeat,’’ Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “It’s been a privilege and an honor to have Rob Blake play for this hockey team.’’

Blake took over as captain in San Jose this past season, setting a professional example that helped the Sharks reach the second Western final in franchise history. Teaming with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Blake had seven goals and 23 assists in 70 games.

Teammates Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov, and Devin Setoguchi came to the news conference to honor Blake. Former teammates Tony Granato, Glen Murray, and Nelson Emerson also were on hand, while Joe Sakic sent a video message, and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson also called in to praise Blake.

Bruins schedule camp dates
The Bruins will hold their fourth annual development camp from July 6-10. All on-ice sessions at Ristuccia Arena will be free and open to the public. The first day is dedicated to off-ice fitness testing at the Edge Sports Center in Bedford and is closed to the public. Players will practice July 7 at 1 p.m.; July 8 at 10 a.m.; July 9 at 10 a.m.; and July 10 at 11 a.m. The players the Bruins pick next week in the draft, including Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall with the second overall selection, are expected to attend . . . The competition committee recommended that the league’s referees be given the power to hand out major penalties for hits to the head next season. The 10-man group agreed on the penalty during a meeting at the NHL’s Toronto office and passed it along to the board of governors. The board meets next week in Los Angeles and must give final approval . . . The Predators signed Francis Bouillon to a two-year contract worth $2.7 million. Bouillon, 34, played a career-high 81 games for Nashville last season, ranking among the league’s top 20 defensemen in hits with 162 . . . The Ducks re-signed center Kyle Chipchura to a one-year contract extension. Chipchura was the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2004, but has scored just 10 goals in 123 NHL games.

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