Interview: Nico Blachman, Saint John Sea Dogs’ Tough Customer
Nicholas “Nico” Blachman took the scenic route on his way to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The 17-year-old forward was born in Hollywood, Fla., and has played with clubs in Minnesota, Ontario, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, and now New Brunswick. Along the way, he planned to attend Lake Superior State University in Michigan, but gave up his NCAA eligibility by joining the Sea Dogs in November.
Not one to light up the score sheet, Blachman has turned himself into a fan favourite in Saint John by his willingness to drop the gloves. In 12 games so far this year, he has fought four times. His lone point was a big one though, as he scored a go-ahead goal against the Sherbrooke Phoenix that would serve as the game winner on Nov. 28, 2015.
We asked Nico about his journey to the QMJHL, how he’s been received in Saint John, and his role as a fighter.
The Q News: So tell us, how does a guy who’s born in Florida end up playing hockey in New Brunswick?
Nico Blachman: “I started playing road hockey in Florida and moved on to ice hockey. I went through my midget and young youth career and ended up in Saint John.”
TQN: In 2013-14, you played with the Toronto Red Wings of the prestigious Greater Toronto Minor Midget Hockey League (the same league that produced stars such as Connor McDavid and John Tavares). What was that experience like?
NB: “It was a good learning experience. I was young and didn’t know much about hockey or Canada. Going in there, I realized that Canada is really all about hockey. Hockey wise, there’s tons of skill in that league and tons of guys that have moved on to playing in the OHL and major junior. That was the year that I decided I wanted to play major junior.”
TQN: By coming to the QMJHL, you are no longer eligible to play NCAA hockey. What was the thought process behind that tough decision?
NB: “I always say it’s a lot different for Canadians and Americans when they lose their NCAA eligibility. I think it was the right decision and I think major junior is more my style of play. At the end of the day, my goal is to play pro hockey – if not in the NHL then somewhere else – and I think this is the right path for me. It was a hard decision but so far, it’s been the right one.”
TQN: How have you been received by the fanbase in Saint John?
NB: “Really well. The first day I was here I was up in the stands and a lot of fans introduced themselves and told me that they had already read about me and what not. It’s been great with lots of support from my teammates and the fans.”
TQN: What is the one thing that has surprised you the most since arriving at Harbour Station (on or off the ice)?
NB: “Just how professional everything is. The way my teammates carry themselves and the way practice goes is like playing pro already. Everyone on the team has one goal and that’s to win and to make it to the next level. We’re all on the same course.”
TQN: During your first month in the Q, you have proven you are not afraid to drop the gloves. Is it more important to win a fight or more important just to show up?
NB: “Well you always want to win the fight, that’s a given. Everyone that fights wants to win, just like everyone who plays the game wants to win the game. But I think most of the time it’s just about being willing and showing my coaches and my teammates that I’m willing to fight for them and do what I can to make an impact on the game.”
TQN: We found a YouTube account run by your father that has highlights from earlier in your career. What’s the story behind that?
NB: “My dad’s a real estate broker, but I think his real dream has always been to be a video guy. He does that on the side, but that’s what he really loves to do. He’s been doing it since I was a little kid and even now when he gets the chance, he’ll videotape me and he sits at home until 3 a.m. making videos about me. It’s his passion and I don’t mind it at all. It’s fun to watch and I appreciate it.”
We thank Nico very much for taking the time to speak with us!
Special thanks to Tim Roszell of the Sea Dogs’ Communications Department.