Rob Blake's up-and-down journey with Kings winds up at Hall of Fame

Rob Blake

Former Kings defenseman Rob Blake, now an assistant general manager with the team, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times / January 24, 2008)

Some Kings fans still haven't forgiven Rob Blake for relinquishing the captaincy in 2000 during a contract stalemate. Blake, now the team's assistant general manager, knows his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday likely won't appease his most bitter critics but he said he's grateful for the experiences that contributed to his being honored in his second year of eligibility.

"Oh, it's tough. I don't know if it silences anyone there," Blake said Monday, after his selection in the players' category was announced along with two-time Stanley Cup winner Peter Forsberg of Sweden, dominating Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek, and top U.S.-born scorer Mike Modano.

"But when you look back on the career, being in L.A. and Colorado and San Jose, all three of those places definitely helped me to get to this stage and to get that call today. For me, playing in L.A. was terrific. I'm happy to be back in that organization. I spent a lot of time throughout my career there and hopefully going forward things calm down a little and we go from there."

The impressive, diverse class was rounded out by the late coach Pat Burns in the builders' category and referee Bill McCreary in the referees or linesmen category. The induction ceremony will be held Nov. 17 in Toronto.

Blake, known for his jarring hip checks and booming shot, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 1998. He won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001 and returned to the Kings before finishing his career with San Jose in 2010. He amassed 240 goals and 777 points in 1,270 regular-season games, plus 73 points in 146 playoff games. And soon, his name will be engraved on the Cup as a Kings executive.

"I would have loved to have done it when I played but wasn't able to get there," he said in a phone interview. "To be fortunate enough to come back to the organization and kind of walk into such a good situation. …It was real nice to see people around here and how much they got into hockey and into the Stanley Cup."

Modano helped popularize hockey in Dallas after the Minnesota North Stars moved there in 1993 and was instrumental in the Stars' 1999 Cup triumph. He scored 561 goals and 1,374 points.

"This is the one thing that once you retire, you wonder if you had a big enough impact on the game, on and off the ice, that you might get this call in a couple years," Modano said during a conference call with reporters. "It's the pinnacle."

Forsberg, who played on Colorado's 1996 and 2001 Cup champions, will be the third Swede in the Hall of Fame, following Borje Salming and Mats Sundin. He effectively combined power and skill, collecting 885 points in 708 games despite being plagued by foot problems late in his career.

"It's an unbelievable day. I have to say that I'm really happy," said Forsberg, a gold medalist at the 1994 and 2006 Olympics.

Hasek won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie six times between 1993 and 2001 and was twice voted the league's most valuable player. He became a Czech folk hero while leading his country's Olympic team to victory in 1998.

"I'm very thankful today to say that I played hockey for such a long time with such great players," he said.

Burns, who died of cancer in 2010, was a sentimental favorite. He won 501 games with four NHL teams and guided the New Jersey Devils to the Cup in 2003.

"I know that Pat would have been so happy, so grateful, so proud to accept this honor," said his widow, Lynn. "It's a very emotional day for the Burns family, I can tell you that."

McCreary, who will be inducted on his 59th birthday, paid tribute to his fellow honorees. He also recalled Hasek asking him before the 1998 Olympic semifinal shootout between Canada and the Czech Republic whether Wayne Gretzky would be one of Canada's shooters. "I found that unique," McCreary said. "Of course, everyone from Canada knows the results of that question."

Gretzky inexplicably wasn't chosen. The Czechs won and went on to defeat Russia for the gold medal.

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