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Blake says he'll be able to play despite leukemia diagnosis

10/8/2007

TORONTO -- Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake has a rare form
of leukemia that he said leaves him in no immediate danger and is
highly treatable.

The 34-year-old left wing has started treatment and doesn't
expect to miss any playing time.

"When you find out that you have something it's definitely
shattering to your whole family and so on," Blake said after
practice. "Overall, I feel good. I'm still here and my goal this
whole season hasn't changed."

He has chronic myelogenous leukemia, a slow-growing cancer of
the white blood cells. Blake said he got the test results Friday
and broke the news to teammates Monday at Air Canada Centre.

"I think to get it off my chest and to move forward is a big
weight lifted," he said.

Blake of Moorhead, Minn., had 40 goals and 29 assists last year
with the New York Islanders. He signed a $20 million, five-year
deal with the Leafs in the offseason.

"It's an unusual sentence to hear -- the first word is cancer,
the next word is leukemia, and then everything should be all
right," Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. "I'm not familiar with
the condition so it was new that something like this would be as
treatable. And for such a positive sentence to come after such a
negative sentence, it takes a little while to get your head around
it."

The team said Blake will be monitored by the club physician and
his cancer specialist.

"I think the prognosis is outstanding," team doctor Noah
Forman said. "He's taking medication which he has already started.
It's a daily medication, and it should definitely put the condition
under really good control and allow him to continue on with a long
and healthy life as well as his career."

Blake, who broke into the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings in
1998-99, is a four-time 20-goal scorer.

"My goal has not changed since I heard this news," Blake said.
"And that's come to Toronto, bring another piece of the puzzle and
hopefully win a Stanley Cup here."

Blake missed the last 13 games of the 2000-01 season with the
Islanders to be with his pregnant wife, who was diagnosed with
thyroid cancer. She gave birth in April 2001, two weeks early, to a
girl and later had throat surgery to remove a tumor that turned out
to be benign.

While in the prime of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins,
Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a
form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes. He began radiation
treatment in February 1993 and returned to the lineup a month
later.

Hours after receiving his last radiation treatment, Lemieux flew
to Philadelphia and had a goal and assist in his first game in two
months. He went on to win his fourth NHL scoring title despite
missing 24 games, more than one-quarter of the season.

Current Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu also resumed his
career following abdominal cancer and missing most of the 2001-02
season. He recovered in time for the playoffs, where he had 10
points in 12 games and led the Canadiens to the conference
semifinals.