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In this year’s NHL season, Americans make up about 250 of the 700+ players in the league. Of those born in the U.S., only five are from Texas. UNRL Athlete Blake Coleman is one of them.
When Coleman was just a young kid, his grandma bought Dallas Stars season tickets “because they were the cheapest sports team in town.” She had trouble finding people to go to the games due to hockey’s lack of popularity in the state, so she took young Coleman to see the team who had just come south from Minnesota. He fell in love with the sport at a young age, and he was skating by the time he was just four.
Continuing to play the sport he loved in Texas was not always easy. “Especially in middle school—that’s when the football coaches were recruiting,” Coleman said. “I was a pretty decent sized kid back then, so they’d always ask me, ‘Why are you playing hockey? You’re not gonna go anywhere playing that sport here.’” Despite the criticism from coaches and peers, he stuck to hockey, making the hour-long drives to and from the rink on a regular basis.
When Coleman was a freshman in high school, he moved up to Detroit where he played a year for the Belle Tire Hockey Club. It was there that he teamed up with Torey Krug, who now is one of the Boston Bruins’ most promising d-man. Coleman attributes a good portion of his success to Krug’s father, Kyle, who was the coach of their team that season.
“I was always kind of a skill player up until that point,” Coleman said. “But he told me to toughen up if I ever wanted to make it. That kind of changed my game and gave me a different side.”
In Detroit, his U15 team won the national championship. After the year, the team split up and Coleman returned to a strong midget team in Dallas. In the Midwest Elite Hockey League (MWEHL), he traveled to play teams from Colorado, Arizona, California, Michigan, and Illinois. The travel meant sacrifice; Coleman missed 50 days of high school in his sophomore year.
“I had to stay after school for a month every day for two hours to make up the time…it sucked.”
To resolve this issue, he switched to an athlete school called Spring Creek Academy—a school whose notable alumni include Olympic gold medalist gymnasts Carly Patterson, Nastia Lukin, and Madison Kocian.
From there, Coleman went to Nebraska when he was drafted by the Tri City Storm of the USHL. He played a few months there, but after graduating high school early he was traded to the Indiana Ice where he went on to play on the top line in the league. His line of forwards finished first, second, and third in individual points on the season. Coleman was named the 2010-11 USHL player of the year.
With a strong showing in juniors, Coleman was selected 75th overall in the 2011 Draft by the New Jersey Devils. His professional dream was in sight, but he didn’t let that distract him from attending college and getting his degree.
“I wanted to go to school for business, and Miami (Ohio) had a really good business school,” he said. “I always wanted to get my degree—that was important to me. It was never really a consideration to me to leave school early.”
In four years with the RedHawks, Coleman amassed 107 points (60 goals, 47 assists) in 143 games. When his degree was complete, he joined the Devils organization to play in Albany (AHL). He notched 39 points (22 goals, 19 assists) in 63 games with in Albany before making his debut in the NHL on Jan. 12, 2017.
Coleman’s determination and persistence to make his passion his career is what makes him an UNRL athlete. He has faced and conquered every hurdle in his way thus far, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.