In the late 1980s, as a means of developing their skills, an ever-increasing number of Canadians were choosing American college hockey over junior hockey. Rob Blake was no different. A native of Simcoe, Ontario, he opted to attend Bowling Green University, and in 1987-88, following his second year, he was selected 70th overall by Los Angeles in the NHL's entry draft. Ironically, he also considered leaving the school at the time because he did not feel he was making enough progress in his game.
Blake stayed on for a third year, making the M division's First All-Star team, being named a Hobey Baker Award finalist, and getting called up to the Kings for the last four games of the regular season to experience a taste of NHL life. The following season, he made the team with an outstanding performance in training camp and became the team's number one defenseman.
Blake was thrilled to be joining an L.A. team that featured Wayne Gretzky. An offensive defenseman who was equally adept in his own end, Blake cherished the opportunity to join the rush when Gretzky had the puck, and in his first year he had 12 goals and 46 points from the blue line. Gretzky took to Blake immediately, and likened him to a young Paul Coffey due to his offensive talent and his superb shot, which became an integral part of the Los Angeles powerplay that Gretzky orchestrated.
In each full season Blake played, his numbers increased, but at the same time injuries were forever taking up a large part of his season. In 1994-95, he missed 24 games with a pulled groin and the next year he tore an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) just six games into the season and missed the remainder of the year. He has also broken his hand and foot, resulting in further long stretches away from the ice.
An early highlight of Blake's career came during the 1993 playoffs when the team, led by Gretzky, made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Along the way they beat Calgary and Vancouver and then eliminated Toronto in game seven at Maple Leaf Gardens. But in the finals Blake and the Kings faced a Montreal team that had won 10 overtime games in these playoffs, and the Kings lost in six games. Blake had 10 points that spring and anchored a defense that was virtually impenetrable until that Habs series.
The Kings performed well on a regular basis during most of the 1990s, but never fared well in the playoffs beyond 1993. The result was that Blake had a chance to successfully represent Canada internationally on many occasions, each time happily taking advantage of the honor and experience. He played at the World Championships in 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998 and 1999, winning a gold medal on the 1994 and 1997 teams and a silver in 1991. He also played in the World Cup in 1996, and was key to Canada's defense at the Nagano Olympics in 1998, where he was named the best defenseman in the tournament. Following Nagano, Blake returned to the Kings lineup and continued his strong play, enabling him to capture the 1998 James Norris Trophy as the league's Top Defenseman.
After parts of 12 seasons with the Kings, Blake was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche in the latter stages of the 2000-01 season. Upon his arrival with the Avs, Blake was instrumental in leading the Avs to the 2001 Stanley Cup title. Following a pair of consistant years with the Avalanche, the defenceman signed a two-year contract with his former club the Los Angeles Kings on July 1, 2006.
In his first season back in Los Angeles, Blake served as the club's assistant captain and helped lead a relatively young squad. The following season he appeared in his 800th career game as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. In the summer of 2008, Blake became an unrestricted free agent and he opted to sign with the San Jose Sharks.
On the international stage, Blake represented Canada in the Winter Olympics on three occasions (1998, 2002, 2006), earning a Gold-Medal in 2002.