Every young hockey player grows up hoping to get the chance to play for a certain team or in a certain situation. In a lot of cases, that ends up being their favorite NHL team. If you live in Massachusetts, though, chances are those young hockey players grew up dreaming of playing in the Beanpot Tournament. That means college hockey and it limits players to Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern University.
Massachusetts native Colin Blackwell was no exception to that dream. The 20-year-old forward from just outside of Boston just finished his second year at Harvard and has gotten to live out his dream.
“It kind of fell into a spot where I wanted to play at Harvard and I wanted to play in the Beanpot,” Blackwell said. “As a local kid, it was one of those things that it just felt right being there. It felt like home. It made my decision so much easier.”
For Blackwell, going to college was never an option. It was what he expected of himself and it was something instilled in his values early on; attending St. John’s Preparatory School only increased that. NCAA hockey, specifically a team that competed in the Beanpot, was the only way to go.
“The way my parents raised me it was always to be a student before an athlete. If I didn’t perform in the classroom then they didn’t let me play,” Blackwell said.
“I always say expect nothing and earn everything,” Blackwell said about getting the chance to live out this dream. “When I was growing up watching the Beanpot either there or on TV I just was thinking wow, I need to play in that. The importance of that to a local kid is second to none.”
It was during his junior year at St. John’s that Blackwell really started to seriously look at college hockey programs. Right from the beginning, Harvard became his solid number one choice.
“When I was in high school they took care of me really well for the next step. I had been to the Harvard campus a lot and I kind of just fell in love with it,” Blackwell said deciding where to go. “It was a goal I wanted to strive for and it ended up working out.”
When the 2011 NHL Entry Draft came around, he was getting ready to start his first year of college. He was not expecting to get a call that he had been drafted. That was just what happened, though, as the San Jose Sharks selected him in the 7th round. Despite being raised a Bruins fan, he had paid some attention to the Sharks. During the 2005-2006 season, Boston traded Joe Thornton to the Sharks and it made Blackwell take some notice. He was incredibly excited to be drafted.
“It was a really cool experience. I didn’t know what team it would have been but I can’t imagine it being a better organization,” Blackwell said on getting drafted. “They do a great job of developing their players and getting them up through the ranks.”
“The way it kind of panned out, my junior year is when I knew I would be playing Division 1 college hockey and then going into my senior year I wasn’t really thinking about the draft at all,” Blackwell said. “Things started to pick up and towards the end there, everything happened so fast. It was hard to wrap my head around.”
Through his first two seasons at Harvard, Blackwell has already created some incredible memories. He has a hard time picking which is his favorite. As a Massachusetts native, the fact that he has already played an outdoor game at Fenway as well as played in a Beanpot Tournament are both irreplaceable memories.
“I played at Fenway Park my freshman year and that was something special, it was really cool,” Blackwell said about his first big outdoor game. “I’ve been there to watch RedSox games and I had friends and family there. It’s local for me, being from the Boston area, and it was extremely cool.”
“Playing in the Beanpot was awesome. That’s something I’ve been watching as a little kid and it’s kind of a dream come true to play in it,” Blackwell said. “I’ve still got two more years to make the full dream come true and win one. That’s been the highlight so far.”
Not everything has been easy, though. Balancing a full schedule of college classes with being an athlete can be a difficult task. Harvard is a top school in the country and has an incredibly rigorous schedule. But St. John’s definitely helped prepare him to succeed.
“You have to always be prepared and organized,” Blackwell said. “When you’re dealing with a full academic course load and then hockey on top of that, it’s really time consuming. It takes a lot of dedication. It’s really fun at the same time too.”
Despite playing 12 fewer games this season, the North Andover native had a higher points per game average during his sophomore season. He suffered two concussions during the season that kept him out. Despite the fact that he is still recovering from a concussion, he is not going to let it keep him from the game he loves as soon as he is cleared to play. He also had never had concussion problems before his sophomore year at Harvard.
“I had never had a concussion before and didn’t realize it at first. Then I had a second one that was kind of a fluke thing. That ended my season and I’m still kind of recovering from that now,” Blackwell said, talking about his sophomore season. “It’s a long process to get over. You see the number of concussions going up but time heals everything. I’m just taking a break and a step back for now.”
“It’s more psychological like with any injury. You’re going to have some hesitations but you have to go into the game with confidence that you’re good as new,” Blackwell said. “Once I get back into the games, I’m probably not going to think about it too much.”
While Blackwell has two more years playing at Harvard, he would look forward to the chance to in the Sharks organization. Regardless of where he ends up, he wants to let fans know what kind of player they should expect to see.
“I would describe myself and my style of play as being a smaller guy that isn’t afraid to throw my weight around,” Blackwell said. “I’m definitely an energy guy and I hope my teammates can build off that. That’s something I hope to bring every time I step on the ice.”
During his two remaining years, Blackwell will be hoping to see Harvard win their first Beanpot Championship since 1993 and only their 11th in school history. After that, he will hope to continue playing and following his dreams. Make sure to toss a follow to Colin Blackwell (@cb_63) on twitter too!