Varsity Club learns about adversity from guest speaker

Brent Sumner
Staff Writer

    The Coal City Varsity Club was recently treated to an annual presentation, where the group has a former or current professional athlete come in and speak with the students.
    This year, the club had the pleasure of meeting Blake Geoffrion, a former professional hockey player, who also became the first fourth-generation player in the league’s history, after his father (Dan), grandfather (Bernie) and great-grandfather (Howie Morenz) all played.
    “The presentation was really good,” said Lauren Deter, varsity club sponsor. “The base of his talk was about overcoming adversity. Just everything he faced, and how he overcame them.”
    Blake took the time to talk to the students about the challenges he faced coming up in a tough sport.
    He started through a prep school, wound up making the varsity team, but would eventually get moved back down to junior varsity.
    He went on to talk about the challenges he faced in making the junior Olympic team, not scoring a goal in the first couple months, and eventually overcoming that.
    “He talked about college and everything,” said Deter. “His grades and attitude. He didn’t always have the most positive attitude, but he overcame it.”
    Blake also emphasized to the Coalers the importance of an education, as he attended the University of Wisconsin, and completed his degree before being drafted into the NHL.
    “It is important that our athletes hear from them,” said Deter about the guest speakers. “Blake’s story was pretty cool, because he went to college and finished college before heading to the majors. He hit on the importance of education. He had a cousin that was drafted and didn’t go to college, and he wound up getting hurt. But he didn’t have the degree to fall back on.”
    Deter added that to sum up Blake’s overall message would be to say, “Things in life are going to happen. It is how you overcome those obstacles and keep going.”
    One of Blake’s biggest obstacles came in the NHL.
    He wound up getting drafted in 2006 by the Nashville Predators, and made his professional debut in 2011.
    In 2012, he was traded to the Montreal Canadians, and while playing for the minor league affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, he wound up facing his biggest decision of his life.
    While playing for the AHL team, Blake would receive a hit from a defenseman, and through the hit would also receive a skate upside the head.
    The accident caused a huge cut above his left ear, and after being rushed to the hospital, would eventually be found to cause a depressed skull fracture.
    After the injury, Blake considered retirement, and would eventually do so in 2013, at the age of 25.
    Through challenges come more opportunities though, as Blake was then hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets as a pro scout.
    After two seasons with the Blue Jackets, he moved into management, being selected as the assistant general manager of Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.
    “The more the students hear that message of overcoming adversity, the better it is for them,” said Deter, about the presentation. “They really look forward to the presentations, and it is one of the highlights of the club for the year.”
    The varsity club will plan on having another guest speaker in the fall.
    For those interested in Blake Geoffrion’s story, Deter recommends reading the ESPN article on his career, which sums up a lot of what he talked about.