Quiet Leader

by Pete Waggoner

By: Pete Waggoner
Photo Credit: Tom Morris TeMo Photo

St. Louis Park, MN  A confident but humble Blake Mesenburg greeted a reporter with his usual smile and gentlemanly manners after his second day of tryouts at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.  The Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights senior captain enters this season with a team that is steeped with depth and talent.  He is their spiritual leader who leads by example and is considered as a preseason Mr. Hockey candidate.  

If one mentions the name Blake Mesenburg in high school hockey circles, he is a known name. For  those that don't follow the game closely  he is one of the best 200 foot players in the game.  Mesenburg will gain plenty of attention with his talented and deep team and through his play this year and it is hard to forget his Sports Center Top Ten play from last year. 

Mesenburg began as a wrestler in his younger years but was drawn to hockey.   “Originally, my dad wanted me to be a wrestler when I was really young, when I was five years old.  I actually tried out hockey and the first couple of years I was using a chair to skate around, and couldn’t really skate,” Mesenburg said from the Red Knights locker room.  “ My parents thought his wasn’t going to work for me and I Ioved it, and kept doing it and got into it.”

The lure of hockey was typical for Mesenburg and noted that it was his friends and being at the rink that was what kept him coming back.  From the beginnings of pushing a chair to developing quickly as a player in his younger years, to today,  it is hockey that he credits to building the relationships he has.  

 “Hockey has definitely been a way to build some really good friendships and my best friendships are from hockey. Kids I know from the East Coast, the West Coast, all over the country,” he said. 

As Mesenburg moved his way through the youth ranks, he connected with the Minnesota Machine where he continued his development and eventually had some life experiences he will never forget.  Among the top moments for Mesenburg was playing in the Pee Wee International Tournament in Quebec.  

“My biggest moment in general was playing on the Machine team and all the experiences we had through them.  We played in the Pee Wee International Tournament in Quebec,” Mesenburg recalled.  “That was probably one of my best hockey experiences I have had so far in my own life.  The crowd we played in front of and all the other teams we played from around the world.” 

When looking back at the crowd of over 5,000 people  and the moment of playing before them, it was something he will
never forget.  His experience with the Machine opened a door to attend Shattuck St. Mary’s.  

“My Machine coach, Bernie McBain, actually had introduced me to Shatttuck and his son (Jaime) went there and he had a strong connection with Shattuck and at the time. it was a fit for me” Mesenburg said of his decision to attend the school. 

He played on the U16 Prep team and experienced a lot over a short period of time.  From road trips to bonding with his teammates, it was a positive experience for Mesenburg.  Dealing with the typical things such as being homesick and away from the daily tempo of home life was difficult for Mesenburg at first but he adjusted.  While the experience was good for Mesenburg, he did miss the comforts of home and the typical high school experience.  Transitioning to Benilde-St. Margaret’s for his junior season was not a difficult one as Benilde-St. Margaret’s was considered in 9th grade. 

“Benilde was actually the other school I was looking at going into 9th grade,” Mesenburg said.   “Partially, the reason I decided to come back was not because of hockey but being at Shattuck the dorms weren’t the greatest and the food kind of got old and I wanted to have more of a high school experience and Benilde was the right fit.” 

The transition to his new school was smooth and Mesenburg pointed out that knowing the other hockey players made for an easy transition.  “Benilde is a great community to come into and it helps when I do know the hockey kids and I build relationships through hockey and that helps me build relationships with other kids in the school,” he said. 

One benefit to attending B-SM is the counseling that assists in students collegiate planning. “It is really good because they have counselors helping us out, applying to schools and there is a whole year long project just to get us ready for college so it helps,” Mesenburg acknowledged.  

When it comes to Red Knight hockey, there is a buzz around this year’s team that enters this year with high expectations not only from the outside world but from within.  Mesenburg said his role was different when he began at BSM as the Red Knights are a more skilled team.  He prides himself as a 200 foot player, something that can be viewed as rare in today’s game, a next level player who takes pride in all three zones as he does. 

Red Knight head coach Ken Pauly shared his thoughts and said, “The way he plays, very workman like and his leadership is very workman like, he’s not the flashiest guy but he’s dependable.  He’s dependable in all three zones of play and all across the board in other things as well.  He’s not overly verbose but just very good in every area.”

For Mesenbug, part of honing the defensive game came in his younger years.  He blended that with his offensive skill that produces a well rounded player.  “I think it was a little different because a played a little different role on Shattuck than I did on Benilde,” Mesenburg opined.   “On Shattuck, our team was more chip and chase and not as skilled of a team.  Last year I had to step up.”

Pauly added, “When we look at it, it’s all about flash and scoring goals.  Those things matter because you need skill.  He has the skill.  How many kids, when they get to juniors or college, disappear because they don’t know those other little things that need to be done.  That is what a lot of people are missing about this kid.  I think he should be on the short leader of Mr. Hockey candidates because he is good in all three of those areas.  Yea, he is not the flashiest goal scorer but you know what?  You want him on the ice to score, you want him on the ice to prevent the goal.  I have plenty of really talented players that I am not so sure that I wanted on the ice in the last minute to protect the lead.” 

Mesenburg is calculated and certainly lives in the present.  He is an inclusive person who understands how to lead by example.  Stating their team goals are to win a state championship, Mesenburg shrugged when asked about his personal goals and dreams as he deflected much of his responses to the team, their togetherness and desire to be a tight unit. 

When pushed, he took a calm and reasonable approach to his future.  “My plan right now next year is to go to Omaha in the USHL,” Mesenburg said.  “There’s a few schools out east that I am looking at right now and I am not in any rush to make my decision.  I think if it comes in the next few months or if it comes in a year, it doesn’t really matter to me.”

In a world where kids have been verbally committing to colleges in their junior high years, that has not impacted are created an unreasonable sense of urgency.  Mesenburg noted that he and his parents are taking their time and it isn’t something they dwell on.  “I don’t really like to talk about colleges with them right now,” Mesenburg said of discussions with his parents.  “I don’t think it is really that big of a deal right now and I like to focus on the present.  They are very supportive of my decision and are ok with me wanting to wait.”

Mesenburg was selected by the Omaha Lancers in the USHL Phase 1 2018 draft.  His plan is to play for the Lancers next season and make his college decision when the time is right.  He has a great perspective on this season that includes being a leader on a deep and talented team both on and off the ice. 

“Personally, this year is just a year for me to develop more and get ready for my future and what I decide to do next year. I think, being a leader and making sure I support my players and I am doing the right things all the time,” Mesenburg said. 

For Mesenburg, it has been a great experience for him as his Red Knights team works to achieve their goal of a state championship this season.  It is all about perspective and the senior captain has plenty of it, a refreshing quality that will take him a long way not only in the game but life.

Mesenburg reflected on his time at B-SM and looked ahead to this year and said, “It’s gone great and everything we have experienced and everything I have gone through at Benilde has been great and the team has been great.  I am excited for the season.”