SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Sharks captain Rob Blake is retiring from the NHL after a 20-year career as one of the league’s top defencemen.
Blake will make the retirement official at a news conference on Friday, a person with knowledge of his plans told The Associated Press on Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not been made. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area first reported Blake’s retirement plans.
Blake’s decision is not a surprise as he hinted at it after the Sharks were swept in the Western Conference finals by the Chicago Blackhawks last month. He said at the time he had decided his future plans but wanted to wait a few weeks before announcing it.
His departure is the first of what could be many key changes on the Sharks before next season. Leading goal scorer Patrick Marleau and starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov are both eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
Blake, 40, was one of the league’s best defencemen over his career with Los Angeles, Colorado and San Jose, making seven all-star teams and winning the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman for Los Angeles in 1998.
He is 10th on the career list with 240 goals as a defenceman, went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 with Los Angeles, won it all in 2001 with Colorado, won a gold medal for Canada the following year and helped the Sharks post the best regular-season record in the Western Conference in each of his two seasons in San Jose.
But he was unable to lead the Sharks to a long-awaited trip to the Stanley Cup finals. San Jose was eliminated in the first round by Anaheim in Blake’s first season in 2009. San Jose coach Todd McLellan made Blake the captain this year, and Blake helped lead the team to the No. 1 seed and a trip to the conference finals.
Teaming with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Blake showed he had plenty left at the end of his career. He had seven goals and 23 assists in 70 games and was one of the team’s most reliable defenders. He added a goal and an assist in the playoffs.
Blake, who played college hockey at Bowling Green, was a fourth-round pick by Los Angeles in 1988. He came up late in the 1989-90 season after finishing his college career. His first goal as an NHL player came in the playoffs against Calgary.
Blake was a key cog for a Kings team led by Wayne Gretzky. He had two goals and two assists to help the Kings eliminate Toronto in the Western Conference finals in 1993 to go to the Stanley Cup round. Los Angeles lost that finals series in five games to Montreal.
Blake replaced Gretzky as captain in Los Angeles in 1996 and was traded in February 2001 to Colorado. He had six goals and 13 assists that post-season for the Avalanche, leading them past New Jersey in seven games for the Stanley Cup championship.
He returned to Los Angeles in 2006 as a free agent and then left to join the Sharks in 2008.
Blake finished his career with 537 assists and 777 points. His 136 power-play goals are the third most by an NHL defenceman, trailing only Hockey Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (173) and Al MacInnis (166).