Know Your Bobcat – Levi Blom
Throughout the months of August and September, BismarckBobcats.com will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features second-year blueliner Levi Blom.
Name: Levi Blom
Hometown: Butte, MT
Weight: 180 lbs.
2012-13 Team: Bismarck Bobcats
2012-13 Stats: 60 GP, 6 G, 14 A, 20 PTS, +26, 85 PIM, 2 GWG
Favorite Music Artist: Luke Bryan
Favorite Actress: Megan Fox
Highlight of 2012-13: “Every road trip, every practice, every game and every other chance I had to bond with such an incredible group of guys.”
Buying into Bonds
When the Bismarck Bobcats got into the last month of the 2012-13 NAHL regular season, they caught fire: racking up a record of 7-1-3 in March 2013 before going 8-2 in the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Such success could be attributed to a number of factors, including adding players like Matt Pohlkamp and Seth Blair at the roster deadline, a resurgent power play or the lockdown of a stingy defensive corps.
For Bobcat defender Levi Blom, however, the answer had just as much to do with off-the-ice matters.
“We really came together and bonded as a team,” offered Blom, who led all Bobcat defensemen in plus/minus with a mark of +26 in 2012-13. “That may sound cheesy but it makes a huge difference. When you have 23 guys all in sync and all working together for that common goal, everything else falls into place.”
When you’re dealing with top-end athletes from all corners of the globe, sometimes that harmony is quite a bit more easily said than done.
“You look around any locker room in junior hockey,” assessed Blom, “and you get a lot of different kinds of guys who go about things differently. Sometimes they have friendships and grudges that go back to bantams; sometimes guys have preconceived notions about other guys.
“A funny example of that would be that at the beginning of last year, [assistant captain] Jeremy O’Keefe and I didn’t get along. He kind of thought I was some redneck from Montana but by the end of the season we were as close as anybody. That’s how it was last year: other guys who fought each other in practice in November were like brothers in March. That’s what you need.”
Blom’s coaches noticed the same thing.
“There are a lot of stats that go along with how well we played heading into the playoffs, but it all spun out from simple team chemistry,” agreed Bobcats assistant coach Garrett Roth. “You have guys going out there and having each other’s backs and it just kind of multiplies. You can watch everyone’s level of play elevate because they trust the guy next to them.”
As a leader for the Bobcats’ 2013-14 installment, Blom plans to be proactive when it comes to bringing the team together.
“Last year a big moment for bonding was our west coast trip to Fresno and Wenatchee,” recalled the veteran blueliner, “but this year we don’t go west until January—we can’t wait that long. As veterans, the other returners and I need to set up team events and basically force everyone into the same spot.
“We all know we’re in this together but I think if we all get on that same page before Halloween that this team has a great shot at success.”
One of the biggest issues Levi Blom faced when he arrived on the scene at the outset of the 2012-13 season is that he hadn’t skated since the team’s late-July Main Camp; being from Montana, off-season ice time was virtually impossible to come by.
“There was ice here and there in Helena, and my old Coach [Mike] Butters let me practice with the Bighorns,” noted Blom, who would drive 70 miles up Interstate 15 to slap the skates on, “but that was about it.”
To his credit, though, Blom never fell behind his teammates, using his off-ice workouts to keep pace until his skate blades caught up.
“I’d work out every day and do heavy lifting at my job during the offseason,” revealed Blom, “so I was in good physical shape. I just had to make sure to bust my butt once we got on the ice to get my skates under me.”
The quick progress Blom made was not lost on the Bobcat staff.
“As the early parts of the season progressed, you could see Levi’s game take leaps and bounds forward,” adjudged Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, “and a lot of that came when he got up to game speed. He was in such great condition, though, that he battled and kept pace the whole time.”
It was not the first time Sedevie had seen such a phenomenon, though.
“You look at Levi, and it’s the same thing we saw with Ryan Faragher,” added the Bobcat bench boss. “There was no ice in Fort Frances (Ont.) so he would have to work harder than everyone else to get up to speed in training camp. But it all worked out for him, setting team records in saves (2289) and wins (57) here and going on to play in the Frozen Four with St. Cloud State.”
Another factor helped Blom keep pace in training camp: the Cats’ famous “Hell Week” training camp regimen with team fitness director Mike Salwei.
“’Hell Week’ was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. I’d done so-called ‘Hell Weeks’ with other teams,” revealed Blom, “but those were usually just a couple of days of bag skates and that was it. Working with Mike and our coaches was on a whole other level.
“I wouldn’t exactly say I’m looking forward to ‘Hell Week’ 2013, but the entire training program we have with the Bobcats not only gets me in playing shape, but is a huge benefit to our entire team and always makes sure we are the best-conditioned team in any barn we walk into.”
Trying to Gain from Loss
Early in the morning on Saturday, March 16, Levi Blom got the call that everybody hopes never comes.
That’s when he received word that his best friend and 2011-12 Helena Bighorns teammate, Wyatt Winfield, lost his life in a single-car accident the night before outside Helena, Mont.
“Losing Wyatt was one of those life-changing events,” said Blom, who played through his grief to manage a +2 rating later on the 16th in a 4-3 shootout loss to Aberdeen. “It’s been three years in a row that I’ve lost someone close to me, but Wyatt hit me the hardest.
“I had to step back and think about my own life and how I was living.”
Following the Saturday contest Blom headed back to his native Montana and was a pall bearer in Winfield’s funeral in Helena.
Blom, who played in all 60 games of his rookie year, was back in Bismarck in time to catch the Thursday bus for Austin. The former Marquette Electrician scratched out a +1 rating over the course of the two-game weekend and drew a season-altering penalty on Austin forward Brandon Wahlin as the Cats rallied for a stirring road sweep of the first-place Bruins and locked up home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“I didn’t miss a game because I knew Wyatt would’ve wanted me out there,” Blom explained. “I went out that weekend, and every game after that, playing to honor my friend.”
He has kept the memory of his fallen comrade close since that fateful morning in March.
“I have a pretty set ritual I have before every game, and since [March] it’s also included a bit where I think about Wyatt,” illustrated the defender. &ld
quo;I thought about getting a tattoo in his honor but I’m not really into ink; I got a necklace instead with his name on it and I keep that close to me, even on the ice.
“I go out there and give it my all every night because he won’t have a chance to do the same.”
Fans can donate to the Wyatt Winfield Be Tough Memorial Foundation, created to “provide opportunities for children to participate in the activities that helped shaped such wonderful character in Wyatt,” at http://wyattwinfieldbetoughmemorialfoundation.org/.
Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. Next week, we will feature Matt Anders, Evan Giesler, Chris Diver, Tyler Dunagan, Kenny Curtis and Huba Sekesi.