Dan’s BLACKmagic BURNing Opponents

By Dustin Nielson
The Kootenay Ice were known as a threat around the
WHL two seasons ago but were ousted by the Hitmen in first round
7 game thriller. A year later they returned the favor to the Hitmen
in the WHL semi-finals by brushing them aside in 5 games.

What was the difference?

Was it the “Money Line” who made the biggest impact. Sure
Mike Green, Jaroslav Svoboda and Zdenek Blatny made a difference
but they were not the answer.

Possibly the emergence of a group of d-men that complemented
each others game better then no other team in the Dub. Once again
the defense were a piece to the puzzle but not the most important.

The answer is a kid from Canmore, Alberta who was turning heads when
he hit the ice in rookie camp.

Dan Blackburn was the Ice’s first round pick in the 1998 Bantam Draft.
He was the highest goaltender ever selected in the WHL Draft when Kootenay
snagged him with the 3rd overall choice. Little did Ice management know but just
2 short years later that baby faced 15 year old would carry them to the WHL title
and a birth in the Mem Cup.

Blackburn made many jaws drop and heads turn as he started to perform brilliantly
in the early games at the Memorial Arena (a.k.a Silver Dome) in Cranbrook

He plays a a cross between a Patrick Roy butterfly and Martin Brodeur paddle
on the ice style that seems to be very effective. Blackburn is always in position
and gets right back up and ready for the next shot. Is very controlled in his movements
both post to post and up and down the crease. Every rebound is either steered away
into the corner or calmly covered before a lurking forward and poke it in. Only real weakness
is puckhandling, does not seem to strong with the stick when playing the puck but will improve
as he gets older.

Dan has the special quality of making the big save when needed, time after time
again he held the Ice in a game until they popped home a couple goals. In fact against
the Hitmen in a mid-season game he stopped phenom Pavel Brendl on back to back breakaways
only 10 seconds apart. The kid is very focused before the game and that continues throughout the
whole game through as even
after a weak goal he would step right back in and stand on his head. Has the size to
play in the bigs and with his mobility he will certainly be there one day.

Unfortunately Blackburn did not receive a an invite to the WJC
evaluation camp even though fellow 2001 draftee Pascal Leclaire did.
He did however win CHL and WHL rookie of the year.

Some may rank Leclaire higher but come draft day don’t be surprised
to see Blackburn ahead of Pascal and possibly even Spezza.
He just seems to have that special thing in him where he just
won’t lose.