"I think this is something that was thrown at me for a reason. I'll become a stronger person when it's over and done with."
I thought Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice articulated the general reaction to the news Blake has cancer quite well earlier today: "It's an unusual sentence to hear — the first word is cancer, the next word is leukemia, and then everything should be all right."
I'm glad to hear that's the case, definitely, as Blake's already got a lot on his plate in terms of his role with the Leafs – and he's handled all the "pressure" and general silliness that goes on in this market remarkably well to this point. Blake just might be the league's most under-the-radar 40-goal man, as prior to his landing in the centre of the universe here, there wasn't a whole lot I knew about him beyond his contributions on the ice.
He's a small-town guy, from Moorhead, Minnesota, a state border city of about 30,000 that's essentially attached to Fargo, North Dakota – USA Hockey's heartland, if you will.
Personality wise, he's been unbelievable in Toronto: He's media-friendly, affable and has sort of an aw shucks attitude about the whole $20-million contract at age 34 situation. Blake wasn't an NHL regular until he was 26, this after four years in the NCAA – three of them rather productive ones at UND.
Most sites have him listed at 5-foot-10, but seeing him on the ice so far, there's no chance that's accurate. His size was likely as much to blame as anything for the fact he went undrafted despite putting up more than 200 points in college hockey.
I'd never heard of chronic myelogenous leukemia before today, and when they say it's a rare disease, they're not kidding. Fewer than 500 people are diagnosed with the disease annually in Canada, although it makes up a sizable portion of the number of cases of adult leukemia. It's my understanding that it's only been within the past few years that the type of drug treatments Blake will have were made available, something that will allow him to continue his career normally.
About 80 per cent of patients go into remission on these medications, so that means there's still some uncertainty. Here's hoping it works out for Blake – and we can go back to worrying about why he hasn't scored after three games.
Living well with CML [The Globe and Mail]