Nov. 19, 2009
By Lauren Weber
Sports Information Student Assistant
As a psychology major, senior defenseman Brett Blatchford has studied some of the stranger aspects of human nature and behavior. Although he understands the motivation behind superstitions, Blatchford maintains that he has none of his own.
“A lot of guys start jumping around and stuff before games – I’m a little bit quieter,” he says. “As far as some weird things that you hear about I’m pretty normal.”
Normal he may be, but Blatchford is a huge asset to the Irish hockey team. He is a three-time monogram winner and a go-to player for Notre Dame. Although he has only scored two career goals, Blatchford boasts 52 career assists and is acknowledged as the quarterback of the power play.
As his ratio of assists to goals indicates, Blatchford is a true team player. He is one of the older members of the Irish squad and naturally assumes some leadership because of his experience, but Blatchford does not hesitate to take himself off of a pedestal.
“We have great captains,” he notes. “I’m here to support them and the decisions that they make so that there’s no mixed message for the younger guys on the team.”
Blatchford’s experience comes not only from the past three years with a nationally-competitive Irish team, but also from three years playing for the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The NAHL is a junior hockey league that features some of the most competitive junior teams in the country, and the Tornado won three league championships with Blatchford on the roster.
Blatchford says that his experience in past years is a factor in his continuing success.
“Having been there before, it’s something you can look back to and communicate to the other guys how you can get it done and how you end up playing those championship games.”
What was a kid from Michigan doing playing for a team in Texas so far from home? Playing hockey at home isn’t exactly an option for players who want to continue their careers at the next level, as Blatchford explains. “Hockey is a sport that you have to devote a lot of time to if you want to get into it because, unless you’re from Minnesota, you don’t really take the high school route to get to college hockey. You’re usually on travel teams and you’re going all over the country.”
Because of the time commitment he made to hockey at a young age, Blatchford has been a one-sport athlete for many years.
When asked about his favorite memory during his career with the Irish, Blatchford instantly jumped to Notre Dame’s appearance in the Frozen Four during his sophomore season. The Frozen Four showing established the Irish as a national presence, and for Blatchford, eclipsed the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) titles that he helped win during his freshman and junior seasons.
“The CCHA championships my junior and freshman years were great, but if you can do it on the largest stage, that’s the thing that would mean the most to me,” he comments.
Among other hopes for this season, Blatchford discussed his goal of getting back to the Frozen Four. However, as befits his team-player attitude, Blatchford corrected himself and said “I should say, our goal is to get back to the Frozen Four. That’s what we’re ultimately shooting for.”
If the team is to make a return to the Frozen Four, Blatchford believes that they should avoid placing too much emphasis on individual games and titles throughout the season. “We come to the rink day in and day out to get better, and a big part of what [the older guys] need to be communicating is not have too high of expectations, to be comfortable going out there and playing. We should have a little dog mentality instead of taking on the pressure to win every game.”
Although the Irish squad features many strong players, one of the most important members of the team isn’t listed on the roster: the student body. Blatchford loves the support from fellow students, and says “The student body and band bring so much energy to the games, and we can feed off of that as a team. It’s huge for us to have them here and rooting us on.”
Intense student body support hasn’t always been the case for Irish hockey, which endured some struggles before most of the members of the current team arrived. “Last year’s seniors told us stories about when they were kind of a losing team and the student body support wasn’t as great as it is now. They built that support, and we don’t want to let it go. We want to keep the fans coming back and keep them excited about Irish hockey.”
The tremendous fan support exemplifies the strong community environment that Blatchford loves about Notre Dame. “Within the hockey team and within the whole school there’s a sense of family. I think that we’ll all realize it even more after we graduate when we start looking for jobs, how much people from Notre Dame genuinely do like to help each other out and how much they are in touch.”
Blatchford’s job search currently remains focused on the ice, although he has considered pursuing a career in law enforcement with the CIA or FBI if playing hockey at the next level doesn’t work out.
“If I could, I would love to play professionally, but at the same time, I don’t want to hang onto something that’s not there,” he says. “That’s the great part about going to Notre Dame. If hockey doesn’t work out, and it can end at any time with an injury, then I’ve got something to fall back on.”
— ND —