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January 23, 1995 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-23

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The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, January 23, 1995 - 7

Continued from page 1
"I had personal ties to many of
them," Rick said. "But the skills you
came with were the schools you left
So it was off on a three-day, 12
school excursion to look at New En-
gland prep schools, assuming that he
vould not get a scholarship to college
or play beyond the high school level.
In narrowing his field ofchoices based
on academic reputation, he chose Ta-
bor Academy in Boston where an old
friend, Edward Kelly, was a history
teacher and the hockey coach.
Rick Sloan had coached teams
which competed against Kelly's former
squad at Cranbrook in Farmington
ills, Mich. where Kelly took interest
i the tagalong kid.
"He always had, even when he was
little, extraordinary balance and quick-
ness," said Kelly, of the boy who won
a silver medal at the World Junior
Championship in Hungary for Kata
Kumite (a martial arts fighting tech-
nique) when he was 13 years old. "He
may have been misunderstood because
of his size by some, but I think the
*alent was always there."
Sloan had chosen Tabor essentially
because of Kelly. But after his junior
year, Kelly left due to administrative
differences and Sloan remained, dis-
heartened and unsupported by the in-
centive which led him there. Kelly had
met with Sloan's mom and hesitantly
agreed that Sloan should stay. But
when the program's focus changed
nd winning wasn't enough anymore,
e decided to leave.
After struggling with the move, he
transferred to two different schools
before graduating, all the while play-
ing for his new team - the Boston Jr.
Bruins. More importantly, he was un-
der the tutelage of one Edward Kelly.
Michigan's offer to Sloan could
not have come at a better time. It was
in November, in the early signing pe-
*iod, that provided him not only the
security to play college hockey, but
the greatest honor of his career.
Of his awards, which include "Best
Defenseman" of 1992's Hockey Night
inBoston and 1994CCHA All-Rookie
team, he deems his greatest honor to be
his scholarship and the "incredible edu-
cation" he gets while playing hockey.
He was in awe of Michigan's corps
.ofplayers which included adefenseof
Chris Tamer, Pat Neaton, David Rob-
erts and Aaron Ward.

"The timing was excellent for him
to come in to Michigan," Berenson
said. "We lost our top four defenseman
and. we recruited four freshman
defensemen. If we had to rate the in-
coming defensemen, we would have
rated Blake Sloan as No. 1."
Assistant coach Billy Powers was
Michigan's key link to Sloan, yet things
could have worked out quite differ-
ently for the Morton Grove, Ill. native
had Powers still been at Illinois-Chi-
cago recruiting local kids to return to
homeice. Powers, whohailsfromMas-
sachusetts, knows many east coast
coaches which made it easy to find an
Illinois player when he needed to. When
Powers moved on to Michigan, he ac-
tively kept track of Sloan.
"For a guy his size, he was always
involved every shiftin taking the body,"
Powers said. "He would go back in the
corner andpay the price to get the puck.
There was no sense of fear for Blake
Sloan does not give himself the
respect and credit that others do. Typi-
cal of his attitude is his reaction to his
pass on Bill Muckalt's overtime goal
against Lake Superior State Jan.14.
Saying he played a"horrible game,"
Sloan would trade a stronger defensive
effort for that game-winning play.
If you ask Sloan where his game
needs improvement, he'll say every-
thing from his shot to his pivots. But
what do coaches and teammates say?
They could not identify one weakness.
Ifhe has one weakness, it's that, "he
didn't select his parents very well and
consequently, he' not six-three," his
dad said.
Sloan's roommate and teammate
of two years Jason Botterill said, "He
has the attitude that he's a 6-foot-3,
200-pound defenseman out there. When
you play like that, you can be an intimi-
dating factor," the 6-foot-4, 209-
pound forward said.
Depending on the day and resources
you consult, he is anywhere from 5
feet 9 to 5 feet 11. But the only person
who would hold his size against him is
a first-time opponent.
"We used to laugh because we think
he hits the six-footers at rib-cage level
and ... it hurts," Kelly said. "I think he
did shock them." According to defen-
sive partner Steven Halko, pound for
pound, he's the strongest player on
Michigan's team, even at his off side.
"The two first met when they par-
ticipated in the WorldJuniorCamp the
summer before Sloan came to Michi-
gan. Halko's first impression was simi-
lar to what many assume of this smaller

"He looked small when I first saw
him, but then when I saw the way he
played, sometimes you just miss the
fact that he's not as tall as say a lot of
defenseman, but he plays a lot bigger."
While Sloan did make the U.S.
World Junior team last year as the
seventhdefenseman, hedidn'tthis year.
But he was content to spend the Holi-
days with his mother and sister.
"I had such a rotten time last year,"
Sloan said. "Maybe I wasn't the best
defenseman there. Butwhenguys broke
rules from the team and when guys did
things that were inappropriate in public
that coach told us specifically not todo
and then were rewarded with ice time,
it was really pretty hard on me just
sitting there watching, especially be-
cause we were losing."
Sloan had always been taught that
working hard and acting responsibly
resulted in the best rewards, but in
doing so, he found himself skating
about one shift a period.
This ice time is certainly nothing
like the minutes he shares with Halko
at Michigan. Halko, called the "calm-
ing influence" of Sloan's game, urges
Sloan to slow down and think the game
as well as play it.
"He brings a lot of intensity to the
rink," Halko said. And yeah, I find
myself being the calm one and him
getting riled up, but alot of other times,
I have to catch myself being the excited
one and trying to do too much. Blake
will pull me aside; it goes both ways."
Halko and Sloan have played to-
gether since last season and room
together on the road. From this rou-

unquote stupid' things that make no
difference in the way I play."
Others have noticed the change in
his attitude too.
"The kid has made incredible
strides,"Powers said. "He'sjust some-
one you can put on the ice and you feel
so good aboutplaying him 25-30 min-
utes. You feel as if your team has a
great chance of winning if Blake Sloan
is one the ice. You wish you had five
more of them."
With such intensity and dedication,
Sloan fully commits himself to any-
thing from the most mundane chores,
like doing dishes in dorm cafeterias of
Tabor, to his school work. He hides
from his sometimes noisy housemates
in "The Dungeon," i.e. his room in the
basement of his house, to study.
And he does need time to recuper-
ate. He has had four minor concussions
this season, which he insists are caused
by hits to his Jay Leno-type chin.
Every practice is as competitive as
a game to Sloan and he is always out
to prove himself. That traces back to
his Bantam days of inpressing the
older kids. He never assumes that he
is one of the starting defensemen. -
"Every week I still look to see if
my number is on the board to even
suit up. It would kill me to know that
I didn't have a good week in practice
and still be put in the lineup."
Of all the inspirational sayings he
mounts on the walls, Sloan's favorite
is: "Millions of college students know
that Force = Mass x Acceleration, but
only a handful know how it feels."
Anyone who has played against
Blake Sloan does.

Despite his 5-foot-9 frame, Blake Sloan wards off bigger players with ease.

tine comes about the worst thing to be
said of Sloan. He often forgets his
toothpaste on road trips. That is also
the only thing he does wrong that
does not upset him.
"One of my faults throughout my
hockey career has been my mental
limitations Iputon myself," said Sloan,
admitting that superstitions and pre-

game routines used to play an integral
role in his performance. It is ironic
that his greatest attribute - his per-
fectionism - is often his biggest fault.
"If something used to go wrong, I
would've collapsed," he says. "More
and more I'm getting more in tune with
just controlling what I can control,
rather than worry about the 'quote-

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