Silver Bay resident recognized by Minnesota Hockey
It was 1971 when Wade LeBlanc first skated onto the ice in Silver Bay to play hockey as a young boy and for most of the last 45 years, he has been involved with the Silver Bay Blue Line Club either as a player, coach or board member.
In recognition of the work he has done for hockey on the North Shore, LeBlanc was recently named Minnesota Hockey's volunteer of the month for December. The honor recognizes his 26 years as a coach and more than 15 as a board member with the Blue Line Club.
LeBlanc grew up in Silver Bay, graduating from William Kelley High School in 1984. He went on to play hockey at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth and moved to the Twin Cities after he finished school at CSS. It wasn't long before he decided city life wasn't for him and moved back to Silver Bay for good and he immediately got involved in coaching youth hockey.
"When I moved home, it was a way to give back to the program that was so good to me," he said.
LeBlanc said he has made "countless lifelong friends" through hockey and the sport has taken him to places like Vail, Colo., Florida and New York, which he never would have been without hockey. Those opportunities and the lifelong skills and lessons were something he wanted to pass on to future generations in Silver Bay. Even though he started coaching in 1990, it would be nine years before LeBlanc ever had the opportunity to coach one of his own kids and he has coached the last two years without a child in the program.
LeBlanc said his favorite memory as a coach wasn't a championship or even a victory for one of his teams, it was a triple overtime loss when his oldest son, Brock, was a ninth-grader. In a David and Goliath matchup, the tiny team from Silver Bay gave a team from White Bear Lake all they could handle and a little more during a tournament in Silver Bay.
"It was a pretty good moment for the kids, a small town up against the big city boys," LeBlanc said. "They came out and had three full lines and we barely had 10 skaters and we took it to them."
LeBlanc is also proud of his work and cooperation between the Blue Line Club and Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association to create the North Shore Storm program at several different age and ability levels. As time has gone on, it has been tougher and tougher for the communities in Two Harbors and Silver Bay to field competitive teams at a number of different levels and allow kids to play against other teams that represent the appropriate age and skill levels so they can compete and have a fun, enjoyable experience with hockey.
"It's a struggle for some of those kids to compete, have success and have fun," LeBlanc said. "That's what you're there for, you're there so the children can have fun. If they're not having fun, then you have to figure out a way to make it fun and playing at your defined age group and level of play, that's what makes it fun for kids."
LeBlanc's volunteer activities don't stop at the Blue Line Club, he also serves on the board of Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors and the Silver Bay Golf Course as well as working with the M Club, the Silver Bay athletic booster club. In addition, as president and CEO of North Shore Oil and Propane, LeBlanc has also gone into area schools to speak to eighth-grade students as part of Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce's "CEOs in the Classroom" program. He said his wife and family deserve a lot of the credit for his award from Minnesota Hockey, because without them it wouldn't be possible.
"I feel honored to have an award like that, but without strong family support from my wife and kids, there's no way that I could do what I do," he said. "It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, if my wife wasn't supportive, there's no way that I could even be involved, let alone coach and be a member of the board. She deserves as much credit as anyone."