Blanchard ready for next chapter
It was love at first sight for Alex Blanchard when he visited the Rockland Nationals.
The Ridley College defenceman hooked up with the Nationals late last year and quickly realized the Canadian Central Hockey League organization was the right fit for him.
“We started talking and they expressed interest in me right away,” Blanchard said. “I did some research and talked to the coach and I had a lot of interest.
“I had a meeting with the coaching staff, the owners and trainers. It was definitely something that interested me right from that visit. Watching some of the players and watching them play, it was somewhere I definitely envisioned myself playing next year and I fell in love with Rockland from there.”
Blanchard, who recently committed to the Nats, appreciated being able to visit the team in person.
“It made me even hungrier to play with that group and play there that much more.”
Blanchard, who also played a handful of games with the Thorold Blackhawks this season, is excited to play at the Tier 2 level.
“I got to see their style of play, which is fast, hard hockey,” he said. “Every single player does the little things to keep them a step ahead of their opponents and that’s how they are able to win games. They use their speed and skill and I really think my game, being a smaller player, I can use my abilities.”
Rockland coach Dan Sauve is thrilled to add Blanchard to the organization.
“We are ecstatic to have him join us,” Sauve said. “The obvious reason is his playing ability. He is a poised defenceman with good vision, good distribution skills and a precise shot. With our team losing quite a few high-end defensemen, Alex will have lots of opportunity and we think he will thrive.
“More importantly, his character and professionalism are beyond his years. He will be a great ambassador for our team.”
Blanchard, whose older brother Max played with Ottawa of the CCHL last season, has high ambitions.
“The ultimate goal is to get a scholarship to go play NCAA, at the same time, a lot of players playing Tier 2 are able to go play USports,” he said. “As a family we value that just as much.”
Blanchard loved his time at Ridley, where he helped the Tigers to a pair of Midwest Prep League championships.
“I remember walking on to campus for the first time with my brother who gave me a tour and explained how things work. Now it’s Grade 12 and it’s already over and we’ve graduated,” he said. “My experience at Ridley is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I’m so grateful to my parents for giving me that opportunity as well as coach (Mike) McCourt and the entire Ridley community.
“Those were some of the best years of my life. To meet so many new people and so many friends from around the world, it was something that will last a lifetime and that I will keep close to my heart.”
McCourt had high praise for the Fonthill resident.
“He’s a quiet individual who leads by example and lets his play and actions speak for themselves,” McCourt said. “He has outstanding work ethic on and off the ice. Whether the gym or the classroom, Alex is committed 100 per cent. He really evolved over his time here and is a player who can be utilized in all situations and epitomizes character.”
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