Friday, May 22, 2009

Blake Dunlop

Blake Dunlop was a classic late bloomer.

A high draft pick, 18th overall in 1973 by the Minnesota North Stars, Dunlop had a wonderful final year of junior hockey with his hometown Ottawa 67s. He led all Ontario junior hockey players in scoring with an amazing 60 goals, 99 assists and 159 points in 62 games, all while studying psychology and sociology at Carleton University on the side.

Still, Dunlop was just 5'10" tall and he was not considered to be a great skater. He was still a long ways away from the NHL.

Despite tearing up the minor leagues in scoring, Dunlop had trouble accomplishing much of anything at the NHL level from 1973-1978. In 1977 the Stars actually gave up on Blake and moved him to Philadelphia for a draft pick. A year later Dunlop finally showed he could score at the NHL level, chipping in 20 goals and 48 points in 66 games.

The Flyers were looking for some goaltending help, and moved Dunlop and veteran defenseman Rick Lapointe to St. Louis in exchange for Phil Myre. The move was a great one for Dunlop. He had played in 72 games in 1979-80, scoring 45 points, but exploded for 20 goals, 67 assists and 87 points in 1980-81. The NHL rewarded Blake with the Bill Masterton trophy for all his years of persevering before finally getting a chance to prove how good he could be.

Blake backed that up with two more solid seasons. 78 points in 1981-82 and 66 points 1983-84. So what was the major difference that allowed Blake to become a top scorer in St. Louis?

Quality ice time of course, but also a quality linemate. Blake was teamed with Swedish import Jorgen Petterson. Jorgen was a great player who patrolled the LW on Dunlop's line. Petterson was a big winger who could handle the physical play and was a good stick handler. Petterson and Dunlop were a perfect pairing. Petterson scored 37, 38 and 35 goals in his first three NHL seasons, all with Dunlop as his center.

The duo were also great off ice friends, sharing a love of tennis. In fact, in his teens Dunlop was one of the top junior tennis players in all of Canada.

The Blues, and particularly Dunlop, got off to a slow start in 1983-84. He scored just once plus 10 assists in the first 17 games before he was released. He was signed as a free agent in early December by the Detroit Red Wings, but he never got on track in the Motor City - finishing the year with just 6 goals and 14 assists in 57 games in red and white.

That disappointing year proved to be the final year for Blake Dunlop as a professional hockey player. He would return to St. Louis to make his post-hockey home, raising two sons and two daughters, all of whom played hockey of some variety, too. Cole played at the University of Arizona, Connor at Notre Dame and Sascha played field hockey at the University of Michigan. Younger daughter Torrie was also into field hockey.

Blake Dunlop tallied 130 goals and 404 points during his NHL career. He became the St. Louis branch manager and financial consultant for AG Edwards brokerage firm.

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