It was only a five-game stint, but the start of Blake Coleman’s career and his NHL debut were impressive and pretty cool for the humble kid from Plano, Texas. Although he only registered one point over the eight days he was with the New Jersey Devils, he could have had more (with a near-miss and a disallowed goal) and left quite an impression on the head coach John Hynes.
“He’s brought speed and energy; he’s come up and provided that. He’s got a strong work ethic and he’s done some things offensively,” said Hynes of the 25-year-old from Miami University. “He’s strong on the puck, he’s got a good shot, and he’s made some good plays. Blake had a couple of opportunities to score in Vancouver that didn’t go in for him, but he had a point on the game-winning goal in Minnesota. He’s come up and played to his strengths, he’s been pretty effective which is good to see.”
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 18, 2017
Movin On Up
“It’s tough, but in that (Vancouver) game I was getting myself in a position to score, in a position to make plays,” he said after his first game in New Jersey as a Devil. “I’d like to keep that going going forward and I’ll have a lot more success hopefully.” So how did Coleman get the call that his pro career would start almost six years after he was drafted (2011, Rd. 3, 75 overall) by the Devils?
“I was at practice warming up to get on the ice, the coach called me into his office and told me I had three hours to get here (New Jersey) and get on a plane. So I scrambled and grabbed everything, called my family along the way,” he told The Hockey Writers with a grin. Naturally, we had to ask if that was he was expecting to hear when he was told to not go on the ice and head to his coach’s office.
The club has recalled D Karl Stollery and F Blake Coleman. They will accompany the team when they leave today for Edmonton. pic.twitter.com/qPP653huQu
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 10, 2017
“I was hoping either that or I was in some trouble,” he responded with a chuckle. “I was hoping that was the case and coach (Rich) Kowalsky was really excited, it was cool to share that with him. It special to hear those words: you’re going to the NHL. It was pretty emotional, and it was nice to call the family and share it with all of them.”
Welcome to the NHL
Disappointing for us that we only spoke with him following his fifth game, and first home game, which happened to be a tough 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. “Yeah, it’s a little hard to say right now because I’m pretty frustrated,” when asked about his excitement of finally making the NHL, “but, we had a good road trip and we wanted to build off it tonight. Hopefully, this is just a little blip on the radar.”
— Adam Henrique (@AdamHenrique) January 11, 2017
He joined the team as they were about to depart for a four-game road trip through western Canada and Minnesota, and the trip didn’t get off to a great start and his teammates Adam Henrique and Keith Kinkaid documented on social media. “Yeah, I was part of it,” he said shaking his head in disbelief and smiling. “My first (NHL) flight experience; a nice nine-hour plane ride I guess. It was tough.”
One of the best parts of it for him though was having his family there to enjoy seeing Coleman on the ice in NHL games. “My dad came up to Edmonton for the first one,” he said, “and then my mom and sister met him in Calgary.” Making the transition even easier for him was the support of his teammates, who to a man made sure he felt right at home within the group.
— NJD Equipment Staff (@NJDSk8Guy) January 18, 2017
“All of them, they’ve been a very open and welcoming group so it’s been a seamless transition,” he responded when we asked if anyone, in particular, stood out in his mind. “All the boys have taken the time to have a meal with me or to hang out with me. It’s been nice getting to know all the guys; it’s a good group of character guys here.”
Whenever Coleman makes it back to the NHL, the Devils know what they will be getting: a hard-nosed center who creates plays with his hustle, work ethic and speed. You can be sure if another forward gets hurt down the line he will be strongly considered for another recall.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.