One-on-One With Blake Comeau
Tonight the Vancouver Canucks will be gearing up back home for the visiting Boston Bruins for Game 5 of this year's Stanley Cup Finals. It has become a best of three series as both teams are tied with two wins a piece, setting the stage for an exciting finish.
New York Islanders forward Blake Comeau is back home in the province of British Colombia, enjoying the playoff atmosphere and planning for his wedding this July. But he was able to stop for a few minutes and take some time to talk about playoff hockey, his plans this off-season and the future of the New York Islanders with me this afternoon.
So I understand your planning your wedding?
Yeah we are. So it keeps us busy (laughs).
You’re getting married this summer?
Yeah, getting married in July.
Congratulations! So overall how has your summer been going?
It’s been going good. Just got some buddies that I just have been hanging out with, got to see my fiancé’s family, we stopped and saw my family on the way home to Kelowna. So it’s been going good. A little golf. Got back into training here the last couple of weeks. That’s about it so far.
So your back home, do you come back to the Island at any point during the summer?
I usually am in Kelowna most of the summer. The last two years obviously I’ve been out there doing some of the children’s day camps and stuff like that where most of the guys go back a week at a time and just stick around but I’ve been a little busy this summer with the wedding planning and all that kind of stuff so I think I’ll be spending most of my summer in Kelowna this year.
You finished fifth on the team in scoring this year, setting career highs in goals, assists and points. What do you think was the major contributing factor to your on-ice production this past season?
I think there’s a lot of reasons. I think I came into camp in really good shape. This was the first summer that I used a personal trainer where before I was just training with other hockey guys, this time I had some one on one time with a trainer which I think helped out a lot. I think I shot the puck a lot more this year which I think was a big contributing factor to my offensive production going up. Obviously we had a lot of really skilled forwards up front too so there wasn’t too many guys that were in the lineup that weren’t producing and that’s why I am excited that I am a part of the Islanders right now. I just feel like we have such a bright future and I think that’s one of the big reasons why I was able to have such a good year was just because of the depth of forwards that we have on this team.
Many believe this is a team that will play more than 82 games next year. Is there any doubt in your mind that this team is capable of competing for a playoff spot next season?
No I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think we would have been there this year if we weren’t hit by so many of the injuries we had this season. It was a good opportunity though for some other guys to step up and play bigger roles and kind of fill those shoes but any time you lose obviously a guy like Mark Streit all season, Kyle (Okposo) for the first half of the year, with other defenseman going down like Mottau, Eaton, obviously it’s tough for any team to maybe do as well as they might have with everyone healthy so I think if we can keep everyone healthy there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be in the playoffs.
Players like Okposo and Michael Grabner have received contract extensions with the team. Has there been any talk between you and Garth Snow as far as a contract goes since you are a restricted free agent this summer?
No there hasn’t been a whole lot so far, but obviously though I’m confident that we’ll get something done. I want to be part of Long Island for a long time to come. Like I’ve said, I’m very excited for the amount of young talent we have on the Island and the good group of leadership that we have with guys like Hunter, Eaton and Mottau and Streit. I just feel like we have such a bright future. I’ve been there since ’04 when I was drafted and I’ve been in that organization for, I don’t even know what it is now, years now so, obviously I want to make Long Island the place where I play for many years to come. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. Obviously I want to get something done and I am very confident that we’ll get something done as well.
The arena proposal is now going to be up for public referendum on August 1st. If you were given the opportunity to speak to Nassau County residents, what are some of the things you would say to them about the opportunity to build a new professional sports arena?
I just think it’s such a huge opportunity obviously with how outdated our arena is. It would be a great place for everyone to come together and watch the Islanders, and not even just the Islanders. Obviously they will host other events. I think it’s just something that Long Island needs and it would be a great way to keep the Islanders on Long Island for many years to come like Charles (Wang) has said. Everyone that’s playing there right now wants to stay there. I know for me, myself I love Long Island. I love spending my winters there. It’s a great place to play. I just think this is such a great opportunity for everyone to vote yes and get this new arena underway.
Free agency will be starting next month. One thing that most UFA’s say when they visit Long Island during the season is that all they get to see is the Marriott Hotel and the Coliseum. For any potential UFA’s that are out there and don’t know much about Long Island, what would you say to them about the area, the team and the fans if they were being courted by the Islanders for next season?
I think the first thing is that we have some of the most passionate fans in the league. Even the last five or six games of the season we were filling our building and it was just crazy in there. Like I’ve said before, if we can stay healthy and make that playoff push and get in the playoffs then I think it’s just going to create an even bigger buzz around the town. I’ve talked to other guys too and they say the same thing, all they see is the old arena, the parking lot from the Marriott and that there’s not a lot around. But there’s great golf around, you got Manhattan close, you got the beaches. It’s got everything there. I just think also with a new arena being voted in, if that’s the case, that also will be a way to get the free agents to come to Long Island as well.
As a player on the ice and a professional off the ice who attends the child day camps and lives on the Island during the season, do you have faith that this vote will go in favor of a new arena?
I think it will and I hope it well. I just feel like with us being the only professional sports team on the Island, and just being there, I can feel how passionate the fans are. Like I said, it’s not just for the Islanders fan. I think it will be a good thing to get some other events there. Obviously the baseball field. It just will be a great place for people to go to hang out and get together. I just think there’s a lot of wasted space there with all the parking lots and stuff. I think it will be a really good thing and hopefully it does get passed.
(Photo: Julie Rubes/Flickr)
Players like Zenon Konopka and Trevor Gillies helped establish a “stick up for each other” mentality on the ice. But the contract situation for these two is currently unknown. If neither of these players return next season, does the team lose part of its character or ability to intimidate and stick up for each other? Or would you say that is something that is now Islanders fans can look forward to every game?
I think that’s something they can look forward to, just the camaraderie of the team. Like I’ve said, a lot of those guys have come up together through Bridgeport and for those that haven’t been in Bridgeport, they’ve been on the Island together for quite some years so you grow these bonds and friendships and I think that those two guys just kind of paved the way for everyone, to let everyone else know that the Islanders are a team that’s going to stick together. Obviously we’re going to play hard every night and I think with everyone being as close as they are in the dressing room that obviously we’d like to have those two guys back with what they bring. But I think the message is that we’re going to play with that camaraderie every night no matter what.
Have you spoken with any of the guys about whom you think might be captain next year with Doug Weight retiring?
No I haven’t talked to anyone about the captaincy. Obviously I’ve talked to Kyle and Grabner since they’ve re-signed and just congratulated them. I keep track of all the guys. There’s probably about seven or eight guys flying down for the wedding this summer. I think that’s another testament to how close this group is, a lot of the guys flying across the country to be at the wedding this summer. It’s fun to be a part of the Islanders and like I said, I think we have a bright future.
Are any of the guys from the team in the wedding party?
No, no guys off the team are in the wedding party. I got some buddies from back home.
Who do you end up rooming with most of the time when you’re on the road?
I usually am rooming with Bailey.
Does he make a good roommate?
Yeah (laughs), he’s a good roommate. We got a pretty good system going now. I think we’ve been rooming together for a couple of years now so it’s good.
Why did you choose number 57, was there any specific reason?
You know what? When I came to camp that was the number they gave me and I kind of just decided after I started playing with the Islanders that that’s what they gave me and I think the number grew on me and I kind of just wanted to make it my own number. So that’s pretty much the story behind it.
Who is the one player you hate playing against the most, whether it’s because of their skill or their ability to agitate on the ice?
I don’t know. Anyone that plays hard, obviously (Milan) Lucic from Boston or Mike Fisher from Nashville. Guys that play hard and anyone that’s skilled that also plays that physical aspect of the game. Those are always the guys that are the tough ones to play against.
Were you rooting for anyone in this year’s playoffs?
No, I’m not really cheering for anyone. I’ve been keeping tabs. I live out in British Colombia so the whole province has been going pretty crazy over the Canucks. It’s been cool to see. It makes you want to be part of the Islanders having that same kind of atmosphere around the community. So hopefully we’ll be there soon one day.
Any thoughts on Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron in the current final series between the Canucks and Bruins and how that has sparked some added tension in the series?
I mean, they said they couldn’t really tell. But it kind of looked like to me that he outright bit him (laughs). He got the fine I guess so that shows that he did. But that’s playoff hockey. Guys just kind of do what they can to get under guys skin. That’s how these series end up being so passionate and physical, just over little things like that. It’s been a great series so far. It’s tied 2-2 so I guess we’ll have to see what happens.
Sean Bergenheim had an outstanding run with the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s playoffs. Have you talked to him at all?
Yeah he did. He played unbelievable. It was too bad that he got injured like he did with his leg. I haven’t talked to him personally but I know my fiancé talks to his fiancé as well so there are some ties there with the way that they keep in touch. It was good to see. You always like to see ex-Islanders doing well and playing well. Obviously I think everyone keeps tabs on everyone once they leave.
Between the Bruins and Canucks, who would you like to see bring home the Cup?
We play against Boston out in the East and obviously I’m from British Colombia, that’s where I live in the summer so it would be nice for the province of British Colombia to maybe bring home a Stanley Cup, they haven’t done it yet. Just to see how passionate everyone is out here, obviously. I’m leaning towards them I guess, I would say.
As he said, we'll just have to wait and see.
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