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

Updated: October 8, 2007, 4:23 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Jason Blake

Blake

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.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press