September 10, 2015

Rick Blight

Whether it was doing to farming chores on the endless wheat fields or playing shinny on the frozen sloughs during the endless winter, Rick Blight was a prairie boy through and through.

The Portage La Prairie, Manitoba native was a star with the Brandon Wheat Kings. In 201 games win the WHL he scored 141 goals and 336 points, good enough to get him drafted 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1975 NHL draft.

Blight was a happy-go-lucky type off the ice but he was very serious when he played sports. He was also a fantastic golfer during his playing days, and became a very competitive curler after he retired.

In the days long before composite sticks Blight was known for his incredibly heavy shot. It was quite something to hear him pound the boards or the glass during warm ups or even games. He very much was a sharp shooter.

The Canucks just hoped he would be an accurate one. Desperate for goals, the Canucks brought him into the line up in 1975-76 season. He would be named as the team's Rookie of the Year with a 25 goal, 56 point debut.

The 1976-77 season got off to a fantastic start as Blight tied a team record with four goals in the opening game of the season. He would go on to score 28 goals and 68 points, all career highs.

After another solid 1977-78 season Blight all but fell off the radar in 1978-79. In 56 games he scored just five times, thanks mainly to a troublesome knee injury that eventually forced him to miss much of that season and a good portion of the next.

Blight was never the same after that knee injury. He struggled in Vancouver before being released in 1981. He signed on with Toronto and Edmonton but never played with the NHL teams. He briefly re-appeared for two games in a Los Angeles Kings uniform in 1982-83 but he retired at the end of that season.

Blight retired with 326 NHL games on his resume, scoring 96 goals and 221 points.

The next time most of us heard the name Rick Blight was for all the wrong reasons. Blight was reported missing by his family on April 14, 2005, after not having been seen for 11 days. His body would be found on April 17, 2005, inside his pickup truck on some quiet farm land, just outside St. Ambroise, Manitoba. Police said foul play was not the cause of death, and it was widely reported as a suicide.

However former teammates, such as Chris Oddliefson, refuse to believe that.

Blight had taken over the successful farming equipment dealership in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba from his father. He and his wife of 27 years Donna had their dream home set for retirement as the kids were all grown up.

"His family business success was well known and I can't imagine him having any economic hardships," said Oddleifson. "I don't know of any pressures that were on him and I can't imagine the circumstances that led to this. He was overweight and it could have been a heart attack."

Unfortunately mental health issues are not as easy as heart attacks to determine. Rick Blight was just 49 years old.

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