ROB BLAKE JERSEY RETIREMENT: Frozen Royalty begins a series of stories covering the Los Angeles Kings retiring Rob Blake’s jersey number 4 on January 17. Exclusive interviews with one current and two former Kings players will help us handle the first task…dealing with the big elephant in the room.
LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — As we get closer to January 17, the day when the Los Angeles Kings will retire former superstar defenseman Rob Blake’s jersey number 4, there is that big elephant in the room that should be dispensed with, one way or the other.
To be sure, there are Kings faithful who resent Blake for the way he left the organization after the 2007-08 season. Some also hold a grudge against him regarding his departure at the trade deadline during the 2000-01 season.
Details on that are widely available. As such, Frozen Royalty will not go into the issue further. But many of these fans expressed outrage when the Kings hired Blake as Vice President/Assistant General Manager on July 17, 2013, and many have done so once again regarding his jersey retirement, claiming that he is not worthy of having his number hanging from the rafters at Staples Center.
There are certainly fans on both sides of this issue. But regardless of what the fans believe, those who are, or were, part of the Kings organization, are united in their belief that Blake is very much worthy of having his jersey retired.
“I know he got booed a lot by Kings fans, [with] the whole back story, but from someone who’s played with him, within this organization, I think he has done a lot, more than people think, probably, on the outside, and for me, in particular,” said forward and captain Dustin Brown, who played with Blake for two seasons, 2006-07 and 2007-08.
“He was a pro,” Brown emphasized. “He was the epitome of that. He always stood up for the guys in the room.”
The player who spent more time on the ice with Blake than anyone else indicated that one must look at the entire picture.
“You can’t look at one incident to put a stamp on his role for this organization,” said former Kings defenseman and captain Mattias Norstrom, who is in town for Blake’s jersey retirement ceremony. “When you look at the guys who have their jerseys up there, it’s not one incident, one goal, one great playoff round, or one championship. Numbers retired—you look at the history of what that player has done for this organization, not that he might’ve been the greatest player who has ever played the game. It’s the impact of this individual on the Kings.”
But wait…the greatest player who has ever played the game does have his jersey hanging from the rafters at Staples Center.
“[Wayne Gretzky’s jersey] is up there [the Kings retired his jersey on October 9, 2002],” Norstrom noted. “He’s there for the impact he made on the Los Angeles Kings, what he did for hockey in California, and what he’s done for hockey around the world [while he played for the Kings]. That’s also been acknowledged by having his jersey retired [throughout the National Hockey League on April 18, 1999], and [by induction into the] Hockey Hall of Fame. But Gretzky’s jersey at Staples Center represents the impact he had on this organization during the years he was here.”
“That’s the way I look at Rob, too,” Norstrom added. “It’s the impact of Rob Blake on hockey for the Los Angeles Kings, not looking at Rob’s [entire] career. Then, I think, we go to Toronto and the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
Blake was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November. Despite that, some Kings fans are still bitter towards him.
“I understand how fans react, although I do also understand that things go on behind the scenes that we never get a chance to know about—we never get a chance to know exactly what’s going on,” said Kings television color commentator Jim Fox, the former right wing who was the last player to wear jersey number 4 for the Kings before Blake. “It’s different in every circumstance. I don’t think any one is similar to another one. There’s always differences. Being a former professional player, I think it’s important to maintain your individuality when it comes to contract negotiations, those types of things.”
“Some guys look at it one way, some guys look at it another, but that’s the only thing that you control, so I would never, ever second guess,” added Fox.
Brown also indicated that people outside of the Kings organization do not know the whole story.
“I think [the resentment and bitterness towards Blake is] nonsense, quite honestly,” said Brown. “Fans are entitled to their opinion, but there’s a lot that goes into what Rob has meant for this organization, and [about] how he left. There’s a lot of details that people don’t know about. That’s the case, generally, with a lot of players that people have issues with.”
“There’s a lot of things that happen within these walls that don’t see the light of day, and it’s that way for a reason,” added Brown. “But from a guy who played against him and a guy who played with him, I think there’s probably no guy more deserving.”
Norstrom said that there should never have been any doubt about Blake’s loyalty to the Kings.
“For a fan, if they feel he’s done this organization wrong, I think we need to make two columns [with] a plus and a minus side,” said Norstrom. “Then, whatever you feel, as an individual, if you have more pluses than minuses, then this guy has had a positive influence on this organization, and it’s going to be overwhelming on the plus side. It’s an easy decision.”
“By coming back here, as a player, and then, coming back again, now on the management side, I don’t think there should be anyone out there questioning where Rob’s heart is, or where his loyalties lie. It’s with the Kings.”
As for Blake, he made peace with the criticism he has had to endure quite awhile ago.
“That’s fine,” Blake said, when a reporter mentioned that there are still fans who do not like him. “They have their choice. The good thing about fans, in general, in whatever city you play in, if you’re not wearing their jersey, they’re not going to be happy, and that’s the way they should be. They protect their team and look after it.”
Blake was not without some humor about the situation.
“I’m on their team now, but at least I’m out of shouting distance,” he quipped. “I’m up top. I can’t hear it anymore.”
“We need special passes to get up there. I’m all right. I’m protected.”
Perhaps the elephant has, for all intents and purposes, left the room for good.
Rob Blake Jersey Retirement Coverage
- Frozen Royalty Audio: Wall-To-Wall Coverage Of Rob Blake’s Jersey Retirement By LA Kings
- Mattias Norstrom Says Rob Blake “Pushed The Bar Higher” For LA Kings
- Rob Blake’s Power And Humility Stand Out Most For LA Kings’ Jim Fox
- Dustin Brown And Robyn Regehr On Rob Blake’s Enduring Impact On The Game And The LA Kings
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6/11/12 all was forgiven. Time to let it go, no more boos. Can’t wait to see it go up and the accompanying hip-check montage.
Some teams just want to put more jerseys up.
Fantastic article, Gann. Now I see why Helene recommended you for the PHWA. . . . . And, thank you, Rob Blake, for every shift you played in the NHL. You were an impressive player, and I hope you’re now evolving into an impressive GM (candidate).
What offended me was how Blake said one thing to the public (oh, I wanna stay) and something else to management (trade me). If he would have had the balls to stand up and tell us all he wanted out, I would have been fine with him and his decision. His actions doomed this franchise to The Adam Deadmarsh fiasco and set The Kings back for many years.
What you’re ignoring is the fact that AEG had as much to do with Blake’s departure as anything else. Blake was a pawn of the NHLPA, at the time. He was their poster boy. They desperately needed him to take a stand in order to keep salaries rising, and in a big way.
On the other side, you had AEG, who was, at the time, leading the charge to control and reduce player salaries. Both sides stood their ground, so there was no choice but to trade him.
These facts, which were reported by numerous sources at the time, are continually ignored by many Kings fans who WANT to blame Blake. There is no basis in fact for such blame. It makes me question what their motivations really are.
In any case, to claim that his actions set the team back are entirely wrong. That goes back to the McNall era. It’s something that was already in motion when AEG took over and were still trying to climb out of. The Blake fiasco didn’t help, obviously. However, it wasn’t the source of the problems.
Gann, what you’re ignoring is the fact that if you allow yourself to be a pawn (which Bourque and Brodeur refused to do during that same era), you allow yourself to be judged for your actions in being that pawn. For years I was one of the most vocal fan/critics of his but I became ambivalent to the situation a couple years ago. I don’t care about Rob Blake or that his number is retired. I watched the player part of the ceremony but I fast forwarded through the jersey retirement stuff because it just doesn’t interest me. That said, to say that fans who “want” to blame Blake for his role in his departures, particularly the first one, is absurd. He DID have a role in it and he has publicly admitted that he made mistakes when he left that time. As you question those who “want” to blame him, I question those who “want” to hold him blameless. Some people who want to hold him accountable for his actions are doing just that…there are no other motivations. jt
He had a role in it, of course, but so did the union and AEG. Detractors usually ignore the other two parties and focus everything on Blake, which is not only unfair, but factually inaccurate.
In my experience, most of Blake’s detractors don’t even know the real reasons for their bitterness toward Blake because they tend to have their facts of his departure in 2001 wrong or incomplete, or both.