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Blain roles with the changes as he returns to his home ice
Dec. 16, 2006
By LINDA BOUVET, LSSU Sports Information Director
Junior forward Jason Blain's hockey career has taken a couple abrupt turns, but he has faced challenges with patience, sacrifice and a positive attitude. And he is grateful for the help he has received along the way.
Blain, a 2001 Sault Area High School graduate who grew up playing in the Sault Michigan Hockey Association, spent 1 ½ seasons at Northeastern University before transferring to Lake Superior State during the middle of the 2005-06 season. Blain's return to the Sault preceeded the birth of his daughter, Ava, last summer. As if he didn't have enough adjustments to deal with, he learned in October that he would be granted eligibility by the NCAA earlier than expected. He went from a red-shirt type status to being immediate factor in the Lakers' lineup prior to their Oct. 20-21 trip to Clarkson.
"It was kind of a shock," Blain said. "My mindset was that of a player who wasn't going to play in a game until after Christmas. The moment I found out I was eligible, I was thinking about practice and being at the rink in a totally different way. Coach Roque was great to give me a shot in the lineup right when I was granted my eligibility. It's nice being a part of the games and a part of our success.
"To see the anchor on my jersey was very exciting. The fact that I hadn't played a competitive game in about 10 months, I felt like my timing was off a little. My adrenaline made up for a lack of timing...It was a surreal feeling, wearing the anchor after watching the team play for so many years and knowing the success the team has had over the years."
Blain scored his first goal as a Laker on Oct. 28 against American International. He has added much-needed experience and maturity to a relatively young team.
"I'm trying to familiarize myself with our team's systems," he said. "I know I need to improve on the offensive side of the puck and create more scoring opportunities. Our team chemistry is coming along with every game. Guys are becoming a little more familiar with each other and what we're trying to accomplish as a team. How well we do is a matter of how hard we work."
Blain, like his teammates, hopes to be peaking in March.
"It doesn't matter who's playing well in December," he said. "We have to be the best team in March. We have a lot of work to do to get to that point. That's what it's all about."
Blain and his brother, Jim, grew up watching Laker Hockey. Blain recalls family trips to Detroit to watch LSSU compete at Joe Louis Arena.
"Growing up, I always wanted to play for Lake Superior State," Blain said. "To be a part of the program now is really exciting."
Blain was a 4.0 GPA and 2004-05 rookie of the year at Northeastern, a school of 15,000 students that competes in Hockey East with the likes of Maine, Boston College and Providence. Blain first thought about transferring to LSSU when he found out that he and his girlfriend, Areka Nolan, were having a baby.
"I spoke with Rick Mick about it over Christmas break," he said. "Once I knew I was going to transfer, I contacted Coach Roque. He was nice enough to let me join the team in January. I was able to practice and work out with the team, so that made me feel like I was part of the team even though I wasn't competing in any games. It was definitely hard to sit and watch all of the games and go to practice knowing I couldn't play until next season."
Blain appreciates the work that LSSU Faculty Athletics Representative Tom Boger put into submitting to the NCAA an administrative review waiver, which requested an exception to the normal one-year residency rule after transferring. Boger also credits Northeastern coach Greg Cronin for being supportive of Blain's move back home.
"Tom Boger spent a lot of time working on the appeal process, trying to find out what avenue to take and make sure that I was putting the best case forward," Blain said.
Now he relies on support from Areka, his parents, coaches and teammates to juggle the demands of being a student-athlete and dad.
"Areka and I definitely made sacrifices in our lives to make everything work," Blain said. "But Ava is such a rewarding part of my life. Spending time with Ava is, by far, the most-enjoyable part of the day. Before Ava, hockey was pretty much my entire life. No matter what I do at the rink, when I come home it just feels good to be with my daughter.
"Areka and my family made it possible for me to play hockey and be a college student. The amount of time they spend supporting us as a family is extremely important. They have taken on a lot of responsibility so I can spend the time I need to spend at the rink.
"The coaching staff and players have made everything so comfortable for me to be a father and a hockey player. Ava's not in the lockerroom, but she comes to the games when she's not too tired. She was here the night I scored my first goal."
Blain adds a unique perspective to a program noted for building a family-type bond among its players and coaches.
"Coach Roque recruits a certain type of player who is a good hockey player and also a good person," he said. "You put those types together, the result is going to be a close-knit group. I think it is rare to find a team that has chemistry so early in the season with so many new faces. With so many freshmen, you can't be sure the mood of the team is going to be the same as it was the year before. Everyone on this team seems very comfortable with each other."
Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey