Associate Sports Editor
After a rough ending to his career as minor league hockey player, junior communications major Blake Humphrey has found a way to stay involved in hockey – through scouting for the team for which he once played.
Humphrey scouts for the team he skated for last, the Topeka Roadrunners, officially as their West Coast scout.
“The reason I enjoy scouting is because I want to give back to the hockey community,” Humphrey said. “I know how difficult and political it is. It’s hard to get picked for how good you are.”
Humphrey played baseball at a very young age, but always watched the National Hockey League franchise Detroit Red Wings with his family, who are natives of Michigan.
At almost seven years old, he convinced his parents to allow him to play and eventually made the “A” team in his first season.
At 12, he was selected to play for Team USA in an international tournament in Canada.
He was two years younger than the next oldest on the team, but still made the All-Star team for the tournament.
Before beginning his career as a scout, the Alta Loma native found himself moving away from home at 16 to Manhattan Beach to play with the Junior Kings.
While there, he spent a season on the ice with Anaheim Ducks star Bobby Ryan.
He began to move on to a higher level at 17 when he moved to Montana to play for the Helena Bighorns in the North American Hockey League, an unpaid league that helps players gain exposure to go to college.
Playing in the NAHL put Humphrey on course for his most important goal, getting an education, something his parents stressed from the start.
After Helena he made his first trip to the homeland of hockey, Canada, to play for the Penticton Vees of British Columbia in the British Columbia Hockey League.
While playing in British Columbia, however, he had his first concussion.
After one more season in the BCHL, he returned to the NAHL where his health took a turn for the worse.
The 23-year-old suffered three concussions in a two-month span, including the first in Penticton, ending his season and sending him home.
The next season after gaining around 15 pounds and looking to take scholarships to Division I schools such as the Air Force Academy, Colorado College and North Michigan University, Humphrey found himself skating as a forward for the Topeka Roadrunners before one play ended his career.
Humphrey was checked from behind against the goal and was repeatedly punched in the face, handing him the final concussion of his career.
“He’s the kind of guy that gets under your skin,” Topeka teammate and defenseman Randy Swank said.
“It was kind of a freak thing. It shouldn’t have happened but unfortunately it did.”
After his career, Humphrey worked a variety of positions for the Roadrunners, ranging from equipment manager to being the head of sales for the franchise, finding sponsors to go along the boards of the rink or which beer would be served at the arena.
As a player, Humphrey was a leader, one who would lift the spirits of the locker room but was not afraid to go in front of the net and score off of rebounds.
“He was always a grinder in front of the net,” Topeka teammate and right wing John Stoddard said. “He was one of those guys that could make a locker room laugh, he was pretty animated.”
As far as his potential career, he has the size and skill to succeed at the Division I level even to this day, as he still plays in limited contact adult leagues and still makes plays.
“It’s not like he was a big guy with no hands, he has great skill,” Stoddard said. “He could have gone past juniors to Division I and then maybe even semi-pro juniors.”
Today, Humphrey attends local camps for 14- to 20-year-old players of a higher level, finding players to enter the same pipeline that he once traveled through. Additionally he is pursuing his bachelor’s in communications with an emphasis in public affairs. Ultimately, he wants to get his law degree and MBA from the University. Most importantly, Humphrey never wants to part ways with hockey for the rest of his life.
“I’ll never separate from hockey,” Humphrey said. “I always want to give back the hockey community.”
Daniel Hargis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.