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
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
“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 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
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.
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.
probably does not remember that story,” said Jim Blackwell. “But the
line is that this was the attention to detail that Junior Warrior
players receive individually, right down to working on flaws in their
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
By Phil Stacey, Sports EditorThe Salem News
Tue Oct 12, 2010, 12:50 AM EDT
When Harvard comes calling, you don't
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
"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.