Olympics latest stop in Jonathon Blum’s hockey odyessy
By Scott Reid
Gangneung, South Korea — Jonathon Blum was preparing to return to Russia with the prospect of joining a new Kontinental Hockey League team last July when he received a phone call from Team USA general manager Jim Johannson.
“You’re on the radar to have a chance to make the Olympic team,” Blum recalled Johannson saying.
The call was the latest twist in Blum’s unique hockey odyssey that has taken him from being a top NHL prospect out of Orange County through a career of bouncing from back and forth between the NHL and the minors, a move to Russia in attempt to rekindle his career, and now a place in the Olympic Games thanks to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league’s owners decision to not let NHL players participate in the 2018 Games.
“I never, ever thought it would happen,” the 29-year-old defenseman said after a Team USA practice.
But the opening ceremony the night before had made it official: Blum was an Olympian.
“Unbelievable,” Blum said. “It’s almost like it went by too fast. You’re all trying to just soak it in and all the lights and all the other athletes you’re around. You’re the best of the best. Unbelievable.”
Which also describes Blum’s path from his childhood street hockey games in Rancho Santa Margarita to Team USA’s Olympic opener against Slovenia on Wednesday.
“He’s an experienced guy who knows what his limitations are,” Team USA coach Tony Granato said. “I think he knows his role will be on our team. He’s an experienced player that’s been through a lot in his career and has an opportunity to play in the Olympics so he’s ready to go.