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Continued: Sister never far from Wild defenseman Blum's thoughts

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 26, 2014 - 11:22 AM

He made the team as a 16-year-old but nearly didn’t go. Six months after his sister died, his mother was diagnosed with a type of juvenile cancer and given months to live.

“She looked me in the eye and told me, ‘Go do what you love to do. Don’t let this stop you,’ ” said Blum, his voice cracking. “Looking back and not being there to see her sick — she was 90 pounds, no hair, basically on her death bed — it was a blessing. My parents did a good job protecting me when I was so far away.

“I’d call after a game and ask how she was, and dad would be like, ‘Oh yeah, she’s doing good,’ when she was really throwing up in a trash can.”

After sessions of chemotherapy and eventual heart surgery, his mother is now cancer free.

Hay learned a lot about Blum’s strength during his four years in Vancouver. He remembers a team-building exercise in the locker room where he had each athlete talk about their life and family.

In front of his teammates, Blum talked about the death of his twin sister and his mother’s cancer.

“It was an emotional session,” Hay said. “It made every player appreciate and accept him even more for making that decision to leave California. It really opened the team’s eyes for just what this kid had been through, how strong he was to leave mum and dad and come up to Canada.”

Making the big time

In 2007, the Nashville Predators made Blum the first California born-and-trained hockey player to be drafted in the first round.

He played 91 games with the Predators over parts of three seasons, plus an additional 12 in the playoffs. He signed a two-way contract with the Wild last summer, so he knew he likely would provide roster insurance and spend much of this season with Iowa of the AHL.

He became one of the Baby Wild’s leaders and loves to keep things loose. For proof, just check out his Twitter account (@JonBlum7), where he’ll often rant about sports, write about his two dogs (chiweenies) or post pictures of unsuspecting teammates.

Injuries to Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard caused the Wild to call upon Blum. In Sunday’s 4-3 overtime victory over Detroit, Blum played his fifth game of the season and first in his most recent call-up, logging 14 ½ minutes and taking three shots.

Coach Mike Yeo credited Blum for helping the Wild defend less and attack more because of his puck retrievals.

“I want to make sure it’s not a one-game thing,” Yeo said. “We’re going to count on him. He has every ability to go out and do it night after night. … This is a guy who has played in meaningful games in this league this time of year.”

Playing hard

Blum showed impressive composure and says it stems from playing in playoff pushes in Nashville and all his years of winning with the Giants.

“Jon’s strength was his hockey sense,” Hay said. “He really understood the game and could really read the game. His offensive skills stood out and took over, but it was the way he could think the game at a high level when it was very competitive that set him apart. He could make plays under pressure.”

Blum, who’s marrying his fiancée, Emilie Baum, on June 28, said he’s “definitely ready” for the Wild’s playoff push. And when he needs strength, he thinks about his sister and mother.

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