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10 YEAR ALUMNI FLASHBACK – JOE BLAKE

The Wenatchee Wild began play in the 2008-09 season. As we celebrate our tenth year in the Wenatchee Valley, we will periodically check in with a player from that inaugural season. Today, we check in with Joe Blake, who offers these words to Wild Nation:

My first year in the NAHL was with the Wild. It was a very special season for me. I’d been playing in Canada and living 1,500 miles away from home, so I was very grateful to be so much closer to home. That season was my best year of junior hockey. I remember training camp and how hard everyone worked to make the team. It was amazing watching a team that started the season getting stomped by Topeka end up playing for the Robertson Cup, and how our coaching staff took our team and turned it into a threatening force in the league. Most of our kids were rather young compared to junior hockey standards. Most of the guys had never played junior hockey and this was their first year coming from midgets, prep schools, etc. (Head Coach Paul) Baxter pushed everyone to their full potential. Some guys hated him, some guys looked up to him. Everyone respected him, though. Ryan (McKelvie) and (Chris Clark) Clarky were always there for the guys, pushing us to be the best we could be. They excelled where Paul (Baxter) lacked to make a coaching staff that drove our team to the championship game. We had our ups and downs but we survived and thrived amid the chaos that is junior hockey. I never had the chance to thank everybody on that team. Some of my best friends today are from that team. I have never seen a closer team than the team we had. I am sure that if we met up again nothing would change.

I also want to thank the town of Wenatchee. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into with bringing a bunch of hockey players into their small town. Luckily we had our coaching staff to guide our team and steer them away from something that could have ruined a good thing. The town embraced us with open arms. The billets opened their homes and hearts. Personally I couldn’t have asked for a better family to live with. I came to love them like my own family and still do today. It’s hard for a family to open up their house to strangers, yet all of the families that did created bonds that are still strong today. These families have had a huge impact on the players lives whether they know it or not.

The fans in Wenatchee are one of a kind. They supported the team through thick and thin. They made the players feel like they were somebody. They were a driving force in the success of the team.

So Thank you Wenatchee.

Sincerely,

Joe Blake
Wenatchee Wild #28
2008-09 Season – Year 1 In The Den