Her kitchen table was covered with “get well soon cards,” hand-written letters, her address book, and her 2012 calendar opened up to the month of August. We sat together, drinking coffee and eating one of her new-found favorite foods; toast with butter and sugar. 99-yearold Fern Kolbe shared with me her life story; which was one filled with love, laughter, hope; loss, heartache, and tragedy. As we reached year number 99 of her story, she concluded her chronicles with a sentence I will not soon forget. “If we knew beforehand what we would go through, we’d never make it.”
What neither she nor I realized was that in Lindstrom, Minnesota a young man would soon discover how true her words were.
Blake Lizotte was a 14-year old kid; the youngest of 3 brothers. He was raised in a loving, Christian home by his mother, Lisa, and his father, Mike. Mike was known as being an energetic and friendly teacher, a proud husband and father, a dedicated coach, and a faithful Christian. On August 29, Mike and his son, Blake – who both enjoyed tennis – sat together watching the U.S. Open. They had no idea it would be their final father-and-son moment here in this world.
On the morning of August 30th, Blake woke up to the sound of his mother’s screams. Mike suffered from epilepsy and had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep. Blake explained to Chris Murphy; “He’d get seizures occasionally. His brain couldn’t take it anymore and he basically passed away in his sleep. It was disbelief at the moment. You don’t really realize what’s going on until a few hours later, and it kind of hits you… It’s definitely hard, but I think God gave me peace that day and got me through it.”
Though he has now been called home to glory, Mike left life lessons with Blake that will last with him throughout his life. Blake recalls a few;
“He definitely told me to always give my all. You can’t control the scoreboard. You just control the things you can control.”
“Don’t take the little things in such a big way. Little things will happen in life you just can’t take so seriously. Something bad happens, you have to get back on your horse and get back going.”
“He always just told me to play for God and give your best effort.”
Blake Lizotte lived out his father’s challenge; “play for God and give your best effort.”
He fought through the pain of his father’s death, thriving in sports along the way. He graduated from Lindstrom’s Chisago Lakes High School in 2016, winning All-Conference honors in both tennis and hockey. He played junior hockey in the NAHL for the Minot Minotauros in 2014-2015 and with the Fargo Force of the USHL from 2015-2017. In his final season with Fargo, he was named part of the All-USHL second team.
After High School, he attended St. Cloud State, where he added to his list of honors; In his first season, he was named St. Cloud State’s Rookie of the year, was part of the 2018 All-Conference Rookie Team, and was named 2018 Scholar Athlete Award. In his second season, he made the Conference All-Star Team.
But there was one glaring hole in his game; size. The Los Angeles Kings list him as 5’9.” He told LA Kings Insiders that he’s 5’8.” The Los Angeles Times lists him at 5’7.”
Lizotte tells Robert Morales of Los Angeles’ Daily News; “I’m a smaller guy in stature, obviously, but I think I use that to my advantage, the way I play on my edges. That’s the way it’s been at each level and, obviously, it’s a big jump at the NHL level from NCAA, but I’m excited for the challenge and I look forward to it.”
That smaller stature is the likely culprit explaining why he was not selected in the NHL draft. He did, however, have eight teams express interest in him before he finally signed with the L.A. Kings. Lizotte made a one-game NHL debut at the end of the 2018-2019 season. He enjoyed a successful rookie camp this summer, leading John Hoven to write; “in talking to [coaches and] to other members of management, the general thought was if a team MVP could have been awarded, it would easily go to Lizotte.”
Blake’s plans from here are simple; “I have no expectations. I’m showing up and working hard every day and we’ll see what happens. I’ve always been a person where I bring my work boots every day. Whether you’re up or down, in Minnesota or California, you bring your work boots and you try to play the same and get better every day. That’s my mentality right now; how up to the rink and get better every day.”
Mike Lizotte’s words still ring in his ears; “Don’t take the little things in such a big way. Little things will happen in life you just can’t take so seriously. Something bad happens, you have to get back on your horse and get back going.”
A young man just beginning his journey in the NHL, Blake is wise beyond his years. He’s learned already that, no matter what happens, all he can do is work hard and trust in God to work through everything that happens; the good as well as the bad. His father first passed that wisdom on to him, but Blake knows that all wisdom comes from God.
One of Blake’s favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:6; in all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. He explained to A Lamp unto My Cleats; This verse is super important to me because it is a great reminder that God should be at the center of everything I do. I believe that, if God is at the center of your life, He will guide you through the best path, not always the easiest, but the best possible path according to His will.”
Lizette went to explain to LA King Insiders; I’m a pretty faith-based person, so I’m keeping my focus on God and keeping Him at the center of my world is what helps me with the stress and anxiety – I guess what comes along with pro sports. So I think that’s been huge for me and that kind of relieves anxiety and stress; knowing that God’s got a plan and whatever that plan is, it’s the right one.”
No one knows what the future may hold for Blake Lizotte. It will likely be full of ups and downs, highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies. As Fern Kolbe had learned, if we knew beforehand what we would go through, we’d never make it. But Lizotte knows that, whatever he goes through, God will be with him and will help him through it, as He always has. That alone give him the strength to keep going, keep fighting, and keep putting on his work boots and getting to work.