Reason to believe in miracles

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:44 AM ET

Fighting back the tears to the best of his ability, Jason Blake made it through the first five minutes of his emotional news conference without weeping yesterday.

Then the subject of his family came up, igniting thoughts of his wife and three kids.

His voice crackled. He wiped his eyes. Finally he couldn't talk anymore.

That's understandable.

More than six years ago, Blake's wife, Sara, who was carrying the couple's first child, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer midway through the pregnancy.

Within days of the birth of a healthy daughter, Lauren, Sara's cancer was successfully removed, much to the relief of all concerned.

These days, whenever Blake watches Lauren give her mom a warm comfy hug, the speedy Maple Leafs forward knows anything is possible.

Jason Blake, after all, believes in miracles.

He already has been part of one.

Maybe that's what is fuelling his determination to overcome this latest knee to the cup life has delivered to him.

Four days ago doctors confirmed to Blake that he has a condition called chronic myelogenous leukemia, a slow-growing cancer of the white blood cells.

Yes, the demonic disease known as cancer had paid yet another fiendish visit to the Blake clan.

"It's enough for one family to go through it once. It doesn't seem fair that they have to go through this again," former Maple Leaf Michael Peca, Blake's closest friend, said yesterday from Columbus.

"Maybe they'll be more prepared for it this time after what they've already been through."

Blake barely had received the news himself when he already was on the phone to Peca.

"He called me right away on Friday," Peca said. "We talked a bunch since. He was a bit stunned by it. Anyone would be. It's not like they told him he had the flu.

"It wasn't obviously the greatest of news, but he was very positive about it, especially about the immediate future. It wasn't just about him looking to relieve his emotions. We just had some good talks about his mental approach to this. He's a strong guy and it sounds like he can still keep playing the game he loves."

If first impressions count for anything, Blake is not allowing the life-altering news to sway him from his goal of helping the Leafs obtain some overdue success.

While media members sitting in the Air Canada Centre stands yesterday morning were being supplied with news releases informing the world of his shocking condition, Blake was down on the ice diligently working his butt off as if nothing happened.

An hour later, seated alongside Leafs team physician Dr. Noah Forman, Blake, wearing a determined look on his face, stared directly into the sea of TV cameras in front of him and declared that it was full speed ahead.

For the season. For his hockey career. And, most importantly, for his life.

Said Blake: "I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Why me?' Everyone gets stuff thrown at them in life. I actually feel lucky. I know that's hard to say but I feel I've had this thrown at me for a reason.

"Even when I heard about this it was my intent to keep playing. I want to play until they kick me out of the league which, hopefully, will be another 10 years.

"This situation will not impact my ability to live my life as I otherwise would, and will not affect my ability to perform at the highest level for the Leafs."

As history shows, such dedication to his team is nothing new for Blake.

When Sara was diagnosed with cancer, Blake asked and received permission from then-New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury to be in Los Angeles with his wife. Before leaving, however, Blake turned in a career game, scoring twice in a 5-2 win over the rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 2, 2001.

"Jason takes every challenge head-on," Peca said. "This time will be no different."


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