Longtime VJW Standout Colin Blackwell Commits to Harvard for 2012 Season
Once a Warrior.. always a Warrior.

That sentiment runs deep with nearly every player who wears the blue and gold Valley Jr Warrior jersey during his or her career. It particularly holds true for Colin Blackwell, one of the program’s outstanding products who just announced that he will take his game (and smarts) to Harvard University.The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Blackwell spent most of his developmental years playing for the Warriors.

Photo Caption Right:
Colin Blackwell's '93 Elites team celebrates a goal against archrival Manchester Flames. Jim Blackwell noted that this goal "epitomizes the high energy of the team that had been assembled."
Through the years, all of his coaches from Peter King to Mike Holubowich recognized his potential and most importantly his insatiable work ethic. That combination led to much success, including trips to USA Hockey Nationals in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

“It is hard to find a kid who not only has the skill and the smarts but also the heart to take his game to the next level,” said Fred Devereaux, the VJW director of player development who has coached Blackwell for years as part of the program’s weekly skills-development program. “His attitude is what makes him a complete package and what sets him apart from the rest.”

The deep sense of appreciation goes both ways. After two years of learning the game through the North Andover Youth Hockey program (he continued on with the NAYH through the 2003-04 season), Blackwell first joined the Warriors program in 2002 as part of King’s Squirt Minor Elite team. Years of dedication by both Blackwell and the Warriors coaching staff (which included his father Jim Blackwell as an assistant) resulted in a hockey resume that rivals the nation’s top prospects.

Looking back, Blackwell was part of a ’93 Elite team that was one of the first to compete on a national level and – much like Blackwell – many of the players have recently committed to top Division 1 schools. Included in that impressive list of VJW alumni are Chris Eiserman (UMass Lowell), Mike Vecchione (UNH) and Alex Gacek (Miami University - Ohio), to name just a few. Over a four-year period from 2003 through 2006, the Warriors captured four straight Massachusetts Hockey Select League Championships and posted more than 100 straight wins in league play.

From Haverhill to Canada, the team also collected hardware along the way but no victory was bigger than the one earned at the 2005 Bell Capital Cup International Tournament in Ottawa. With Blackwell serving as captain and playing against some of the nation’s top talent, the Warriors came through as grand champions.

“The success of this team allowed these talented players to dream,” said Jim Blackwell. “Winning in Ottawa helped them believe that they could be ‘professional’ players. They then set out on individual and team paths of setting goals to achieve their dreams.”

When it came time for high school, Blackwell was ready for the challenge as he became the first player in 13 years to make the varsity team at St. John’s Prep in Danvers. Over the course of his high school career, Blackwell has amassed 67 career points including 37 goals. He led his team not only in scoring but also in spirit as he was elected as captain during his junior and senior campaigns.

“Colin was always biting at the bit to get to the rink. It was his social hour because that was where his friends were and he was with his friends at the rink six days a week,” said Jim Blackwell. “That type of high level success comes from great coaching, game preparation, constant attention to skill development and an environment where the players are just having fun and being each other’s best friends.”

Blackwell was quick to recall a meeting he had with Devereaux years ago in Haverhill. With great detail, Devereaux explained how he was concerned about Colin’s cross over and provided suggestions on how to correct and add more power to his stride. Blackwell went home and relayed the message to Colin.

“Fred probably does not remember that story,” said Jim Blackwell. “But the bottom line is that this was the attention to detail that Junior Warrior players receive individually, right down to working on flaws in their stride.”

Following his final season at St. John's Prep, Blackwell will spend one year playing junior hockey before joining Ted Donato’s Harvard team for the 2012 hockey season.

“The Warrior organization played an integral part in Colin’s hockey development,” said Jim Blackwell. “That foundation has led to this great opportunity.”

To learn even more about Colin Blackwell and his special journey to Cambridge, read the following story which appeared in the Salem Evening News.

Color Me Crimson
St. John's Prep hockey star Blackwell commits to skate for Harvard

By Phil Stacey, Sports EditorThe Salem News Tue Oct 12, 2010, 12:50 AM EDT

When Harvard comes calling, you don't say no.

Colin Blackwell couldn't agree more. In fact, he had been dreaming of the day that he'd receive a phone call from coach Ted Donato, asking him if he'd like to play his college hockey for the Crimson.

"Ever since middle school, even before that, going to Harvard has been a dream of mine. It's always been my No. 1 choice," said the 17-year-old Blackwell, a game-changing center at St. John's Prep who has officially committed to play Division 1 hockey at Harvard beginning in the fall of 2012.

"Obviously from an academic standpoint, it can't be beat. And to play hockey there, to be able to compete in the Beanpot and all ... it's the perfect fit for me."

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Blackwell, a dynamic skater with outstanding puck skills in the offensive zone, had drawn all kinds of interest from many Hockey East and Ivy League schools. Scholarship offers came in from Maine, New Hampshire and Merrimack, among others, while Brown University wanted him badly. Even defending national champion Boston College was on Blackwell's trail, with head coach Jerry York phoning him personally last week.

But when Donato, the former Bruin (and Catholic Conference superstar at Catholic Memorial in the mid-1980s) called and said the school was ready to make a commitment to him last week, Blackwell was sold.

"Getting that phone call was one of the best nights of my life," said Blackwell, a two-time SJP captain and the 2009 Salem News Hockey Player of the Year. "I had visited some schools and narrowed down my choices, but Harvard was always right at the top.

"Calling Coach York was one of the toughest phone calls I've ever had to make. It would have been unbelievable to play for him and for a school that's won two of the last three (NCAA) titles and also plays in the Beanpot. But any time I've ever been at Harvard, I've felt most comfortable there. It's the best fit for me."

A two-time Catholic Conference all-star and the reigning team MVP at St. John's, the North Andover resident has 37 goals and 67 career points in high school. Blackwell has led the Eagles in scoring each of the last two seasons, including 19-17-36 totals last winter.

"Colin is one of those players you build your team around," said his head coach, Kristian Hanson. "I remember seeing him the first time as a 14-year-old; you could tell even then he was a special player because he had skills beyond his age. He's certainly the most talented player I've ever coached."

Currently playing for the Boston Junior Bruins program in the highly competitive Eastern Junior Hockey League, (as captain of their 'Little Bruins' half-season team), Blackwell will play a full season of juniors after his graduation from St. John's before he matriculates at Harvard in 2012. Whether he remains with the Bruins and the EJHL or goes instead to the Midwest to play in United States Hockey League, considered the country's best junior circuit, remains to be seen.

While most people think of Blackwell primarily for his outstanding offensive skills, said Hanson, what many observers miss is his effectiveness skating in all three zones.

"Colin's offense isn't just about scoring goals," said Hanson, "but he also generates goals through puck possession and with his tremendous speed. He's so shifty and quick and it's really difficult to take the puck away from him. He has a great knack for finding the open guy when he has the puck, and he's so, so talented coming out of the corners with the puck and making something big happen."

"I've enjoyed every minute of my time at St. John's," Blackwell said. "The kids on the team are the best; the coaches have been awesome to me; and the school community, they're at all our games and always have our back. It's all meant so much to me."

Some of Blackwell's most memorable athletic achievements to date have occurred on the Harvard campus. He scored his first two varsity goals as a freshman at the Bright Center on campus against arch rival Catholic Memorial. And he's played there with the Eagles' lacrosse team for the state championship each of the past two seasons, winning the 2010 title in dramatic overtime fashion this past June. "That's a special night I'll never forget," he said.

Blackwell, who opened a lot of eyes this summer with his performance at the U.S. Under-17 National Development Program camp in Rochester, N.Y. (making the all-star team after a dominant week of play there), will have a familiar face joining him at Harvard in two years; Little Bruins teammate Steve Michalek, a goaltender from Glastonbury, Conn.

Going to school at the world's most famous institution of higher learning gives Blackwell what he considers to be the best of all worlds. There's the tight knit campus life, combined with Harvard Square and the city of Cambridge right outside his door. Combine that with the top-notch education he'll receive, the opportunity to play against some of the nation's best Division 1 programs and that his family — parents Jim and Carla and  brother John (a 20-year-old who attends Bentley) — and friends won't have to travel far to watch him play, and it all added up to the perfect package.


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