Blake Coleman was a die-hard fan of the Dallas Stars as a young kid.
Coleman, who grew up in Plano, Texas, just 17 miles outside of Dallas, soaked in the Stars' big Stanley Cup moments in their runs during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now he has his very own.
It had to be such a surreal feeling as Coleman scored his fifth goal, and first of the Stanley Cup final, Monday night against the team he grew up idolizing.
His goal, a one-timer off a feed from Cedric Paquette, gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead and helped clinch the Lightning’s second Stanley Cup in franchise history and first in 16 years.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s what every hockey player works for. It was a little heavier than I thought, but it’s unbelievable,” Coleman told NBC’s Pierre McGuire.
This year’s Stanley Cup Final was the first ever between two Sunbelt teams. The Stars moved from Minnesota to Dallas in 1993, when Coleman was just 2 years old. It’s hard to imagine Coleman likely ever picking up a hockey stick if it weren’t for the Stars moving to Dallas.
Coleman becomes the first born-and-raised player from Texas to win a Stanley Cup. It’s been quite a journey for Coleman to reach the pinnacle of his hockey career.
He spent three years in the United States Hockey League playing for the Tri-City Storm and Indiana Ice.
After being a third-round pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2011, he played college hockey at Miami (Ohio) University, before spending two years in with the Devils AHL team.
He made his NHL debut in the 2016-17 season with New Jersey, and has continued to get better every year of his NHL career.
Now, he’s a Stanley Cup champion.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride. I get emotional thinking about all of the people who got me to where I am,” Coleman said. “It’s been a long road, but it’s so worth it.”
Coleman was one of Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois' trade deadline acquisitions this year — from the Devils for forward Nolan Foote and a first-round pick in either 2020 or 2021.
He had back-to-back 20-goal seasons as a member of the Devils, but managed just one assist in nine games before the entire world and sports landscape went on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that’s not the reason Coleman was necessarily brought to the Lightning. Not only is he a goal scorer, he’s an elite penalty-killer, a physical presence, and he added much-needed sandpaper to their lineup.
Coleman played with Yanni Gourde and fellow trade deadline pickup Barclay Goodrow during the Lightning’s run to the Cup, and the trio was one of the team’s most productive lines in the playoffs.
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They often would play against their opposition’s top lines and the Lightning’s penalty-kill ran at 86.1 percent. In the six games against the Stars, they held Dallas to just one power play goal on 19 chances, and Coleman was a big reason why.
Coleman may have only played nine games in the regular season with the Lightning, then had a four-month break, but he looked as comfortable as ever during the team’s playoff run.
“He competes hard, he never gives up on a play and his skating is exceptional. It’s effortless out there,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, earlier in the playoffs. “He’s fearless going to the net and he plays with an edge … there was a reason why we acquired Goody (Goodrow) and Coleman. It provides depth to our team, adds sandpaper, combined with skill.”
Often trade deadline acquisitions are rentals and test the free-agent market after the season’s end, but Coleman will be back next year with the Lightning. He can take this offseason, savor every moment of his team’s Stanley Cup run, and continue to play a big role on the Lightning when next season begins.
“It’s been so professional in this locker room since Day 1. So much talent, so much depth,” Coleman said.
“It was a whirlwind of an experience. It took a while to settle in, but I’m so proud to be part of this group. You see how talented and how strong of a team this is. It’s been so much fun.”
2020 Stanley Cup victory print: Lightning championship poster coming to Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times newspaper