GAN­DER BAY TEEN HEADS FOR NEW BRUNSWICK AND NEW LEAGUE

Gan­der Bay teen play­ing for New Brunswick’s Rothe­say Nether­wood School in Mid­west Prep Hockey League

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY THOM BARKER ed­i­[email protected]­cen­tralvoice.ca

There comes a point in most promis­ing young hockey play­ers’ ca­reers when they must make a de­ci­sion be­tween stay­ing at home and mov­ing away.

And so it was for 15-year-old Bradley Blake of Gan­der Bay. The for­mer Cen­tral IcePak cap­tain is now play­ing in Rothe­say, N.B. for the Rothe­say Nether­wood School River­hawks of the Mid­west Prep Hockey League (MPHL).

“It’s cool, it’s lots of fun,” he told The Cen­tral Voice. “The hockey is good here and we go all over the place. We go to the States and we go to On­tario and places like that, west­ern Canada, and it’s lots of fun.”

The league is made up of pri­vate schools from Que­bec, Ver­mont, On­tario, New York, Ohio, Illi­nois and Penn­syl­va­nia.

Be­tween aca­demics, phys­i­cal train­ing, hockey prac­tice, travel and com­pe­ti­tion, Blake’s plate is full. And it is not just lim­ited to the hockey sea­son. To pre­pare for this year, he at­tended a hockey academy in Mon­treal.

“We were in the gym six days a week and on the ice al­most ev­ery day and it was train­ing and train­ing and train­ing, and that’s what you have to do to play at this level,” he said.

The hard work has paid off with a se­lec­tion to the New­found­land and Labrador team for the Canada Win­ter Games in Red Deer, Al­berta Feb. 15-March 3, 2019.

“That was an awe­some feel­ing,” Bradley said. “I was talk­ing to some of the peo­ple who played four years ago; they said it was the time of their life, it was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence. So, I’m just re­ally look­ing for­ward to hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent my prov­ince at such a big event like that.”

Jeff Lewis, Rothe­say Nether­wood direc­tor of hockey, said the school is happy to have him.

“He’s adapted well,” Lewis said. “He’s still mak­ing the tran­si­tion a lit­tle bit from Ban­tam as they all are; it’s big­ger, faster, quicker hockey when you get to this level, but he’s do­ing re­ally well.

“He’s a great kid, he works hard in school, he works hard in the gym and he works hard on the ice. He’s been a nice ad­di­tion to our team for sure.” Com­mit­ment Melissa Blake, Bradley’s mother, said ad­vanc­ing to an elite level is not just a com­mit­ment for the player, but for the en­tire fam­ily. Liv­ing in a small out­port (Georges Point) with no lo­cal ac­cess to gyms and are­nas, the Blakes main­tained their own rink in a de­tached garage and con­verted their at­tached garage to a work­out space so Bradley could prac­tice and stay in shape at home.

“We kind of switched our whole house up­side down for him,” Melissa said.

There was also a huge time and fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment. Last year, Bradley played for both the Ban­tam AAA IcePak and the Ma­jor Midget team.

“We were on the road three days a week, and then trav­el­ling to St. John’s and to his home sta­dium, which was an hour-anda-half each way,” Melissa said. “We were do­ing this three days a week and then ev­ery week­end we were trav­el­ling as well, so in the car we would be study­ing to­gether while I was driv­ing.”

And, of course, it is hard on a mom.

“Our lives went from be­ing ex­tremely busy ev­ery sin­gle day to not hav­ing him around, which is very dif­fi­cult,” she said.

For his part, Bradley said it is some­times tough be­ing away from home, but he is a lit­tle less sen­ti­men­tal about it.

“I’m not the type of per­son to get home­sick, I love ad­ven­tures and do­ing dif­fer­ent things and I love this whole pro­gram here,” he said.

In 2017-18, Blake racked up 18 goals and 12 as­sists in 39 games be­tween reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs in the New­found­land and Labrador AAA Ban­tam league.

Ul­ti­mately, Blake has his eyes on a pro­fes­sional hockey ca­reer, but is tak­ing it one step at a time.

“I guess you could say (the NHL is) the long-term goal, but right now I’m just look­ing to have a good year and maybe get drafted in the 2019 QMJHL (Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior) draft and maybe that could be my ca­reer for the next few years.”

“He’s a great kid, he works hard in school, he works hard in the gym and he works hard on the ice.”

– Jeff Lewis

CON­TRIBUTED

Bradley Blake prac­tic­ing with Team NL.

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