by Arch Ecker
After a promising career in juniors was cut short by one too many concussions, Blake Humphrey was forced to step away from the game he’s loved since he was a kid. Labor Day Weekend, he will get to suit up with the RoadRunner Alumni Team for an afternoon reliving his dream.
He began his junior career in Helena, MT with the NAHL’s Helena Bighorns, where he played with future RoadRunners Josh Kamrass and Tibor Kutalek. He posted 4 goals and 5 assists in a supporting role as a rookie. Essentially a free agent after the Helena Bighorns withdrew from the league, “Humps” elected to take his sizeable frame to the rough and tumble BCHL where he joined the Penticton Vees. It was there that he suffered a concussion that sidelined him temporarily. He was traded to another BCHL team, the Quesnel Millionaires. “I actually reported to Quesnel after I was traded from Penticton. I saw the quality of the team, the town, and the organization, and I was on my way to Santa Fe within two days.” By heading to Santa Fe, he knew he would rejoin Kamrass and Kutalek. “Joining Kams and Tibor again was an unreal feeling. Besides the fact that the two were a couple of the best players in the league, they are also great people and great friends. I was blessed to come to a team where I had a couple of teammates that were like brothers. Kams and I are still close, and Tibor’s off playing pro in Slovakia.” Blake played in three games before a seemingly innocent check in a home game against Fairbanks delivered another concussion, effectively ending his season. He sought medical advice from NHL trainers and medical personnel as he fought hard to get back to the game he loves so much.
The summer of 2007, a driven and motivated Humphrey put on 15 pounds of pure muscle and reported to Topeka with a clean bill of health and ready to play some hockey, as evidenced by a strong training camp and a hat trick in a 6-3 win at Southern Minnesota in a preseason game. He had put up 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games heading into a two-game set at Wichita Falls when fate turned ugly once again. In a vicious battle with the Wildcats Adam Cardwell in which Cardwell drew a Game DQ major for jumping him, Humphrey sustained yet another concussion. Humphrey reflected back on that fateful day. “I remember everything about the incident with Adam Cardwell. It was an unfortunate situation for me. My career ended, he received a two game suspension. But hey, that is the history of sports.” It wasn’t diagnosed immediately, in fact he came back in to assist on the ‘Runners only goal of the game. The following night, he dressed but basically was there to serve penalties if need be and nothing else. It was the last time he wore a RoadRunner uniform. It was quite a loss for the team. “Humps was a gamer, he loved to play in the areas of the ice that a lot of players don’t like to go to”, said head coach Scott Langer. “He understood that sacrifice and team were much more important than the individual.”
Humphrey wasn’t done. He battled hard and tried to make a post holiday break return, but the doctors would not give him clearance, citing too many concussions in too short a time. So he found other ways to contribute. He helped with drills in practice. He stood on the bench with the coaches on game nights. He became the team’s equipment manager, sharpened skates and even sold advertising as well. He embraced the organization in all its facets, and was driven to find a way to remain involved as more than a spectator.
Blake skated in the first Alumni game in 2009, and is excited to return to continue the tradition. “Smacks (Coach Langer) has always talked about his organization being a family. That’s exactly how it feels, and I’m looking forward to coming home for the game.”
The Second Annual RoadRunner Alumni Game is set for Sunday September 5 at 12:00 noon in Landon Arena. Tickets are available through the Expocentre Box Office alone or as part of a package including two RoadRunners preseason games and a limited edition T-shirt.