For those who were emotionally distraught over the loss of the NHL season this year, Chisasibi’s Brant “Big Bear” Blackned has provided some solace on the ice. Blackned won his second league title in two years with the Muskegon Fury of the United Hockey League. Best of all, Blackned was this year’s Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.
The Colonial Cup finals alternated between Muskegon, Michigan, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, home of the rival Komets. It wasn’t as competitive as it could have been, said Blackned, after the Fury ended the Komets’ run in five games of the best-of-seven final May 23.
“They lost a couple of guys and that’s why the series ended up 4-1,” Blackned said. “They had a very good team, but losing those guys to injury, I guess that’s why we smoked them the way we did. It was a very good series, close, but those games just went our way.”
Blackned, 31, is a proven winner at two different levels of hockey. He has been a professional hockey player for 10 years, the last four with Muskegon, where he’s had the honour of winning three UHL titles. In 1993, he also won the Quebec Major Junior Championship while playing for the Laval Titans.
Being the playoff MVP of the best team in the league is a humbling experience, he says. “I felt honoured because we were a very strong team and it seemed like different people stepped up at different times throughout the playoffs and then I happened to contribute right at the end and they picked me,” said Blackned, who ended up with 22 points in 17 games, tied with teammate Todd Robinson. “Anybody could have won it.”
Blackned describes himself as a player who is “pretty offensive” and his 34 regular season goals show that. But he also tries to be a complete player and with a plus-24 to go along with his 97 points, he is closer to being a complete player than most hockey players in minor pro.
While he was skating around the ice after scoring the championship-clinching goal, the Hockey Hall of Fame representatives asked Blackned if they could bring his jersey to the minor pro exhibition at the Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“It was pretty cool, but at the time it happened it was bad timing. I was in the middle of the ice, skating around with the cup,” he recounted.
After the initial shock wore off, however, he regained his bearings. “How many people get the chance to have their jersey in the Hall of Fame?” he asked rhetorically. The Hall also took the puck Blackned scored with to end the championship series.
A little known fact about the 5’ 10” left-winger is that he chose number 44 because it’s his birthday (April 4, 1974). “It was also the time when Gretzky had 99 and Lemieux 66 so I wanted to stay away from those numbers.”
Now that the year has come to an end, Blackned will be running a hockey camp for youth this summer in his hometown of Wemindji. After that he will be heading back to Muskegon with his wife and three kids to defend his UHL title.
“They love their hockey there,” he said about his second home. “There are a few Native people around the area and they are always curious to see me and find out which nation I’m from,” said Blackned who admits he used to hear racial slurs years ago, but the league has since done a good job of cleaning up the game.