'Do you hate me yet?' Liane Blyn's bittersweet connection with ASU hockey

The world record holder and champion powerlifter joined ASU's staff in 2018

Mornings for the ASU hockey team begin at 8 a.m. with a workout led by strength and conditioning coach Liane Blyn.

Blyn, who joined ASU's staff in 2018, is a 14 time USA Powerlifting National Champion and current International Powerlifting Federation World Champion. Also, she’s a world record holder in the bench, deadlift and total.

“I’ve always been a competitive person,” Blyn said. “If you tell me I can’t do something, I am going to prove you wrong. I played field hockey and softball in college; I took up powerlifting and weightlifting and strongman in grad school. I’ve been competing for 20 years for the U.S. women’s powerlifting team, and it’s fun to see where I can take myself.”

Her work ethic has taken her several places, including Boston College, Appalachian State, University of Nevada-Reno and now ASU, where she works with the school’s Olympic sports programs.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” Blyn said. “They have a great culture … the guys are great to work with and be around. I’ve been in this business for 24 years, and they’re probably one of the best teams I’ve worked with.”

In his first season with the ASU hockey program, freshman forward Logan Jenuwine has gotten a fresh taste of Blyn’s workout regimen.

“She’s had a huge impact,” Jenuwine said. “Obviously working out with her every day, even on the ice she’ll come out and do conditioning skates and stuff like that for us and it’s tremendous. She’s a badass.”

Since he arrived to Tempe this past summer, Jenuwine has seen physical changes that have made him a more-conditioned athlete.

“Obviously I am stronger, in better shape, weigh less, but one of the biggest things is that I am a lot more flexible,” he said. “My roommate (Jack Judson and I) feel so much looser, so much more agile and easier to move on the ice just because (Blyn) really mixes that in with our workouts every day.”

What’s even more impactful than her workouts is her connection to the players, which Jenuwine described as a "love-hate" relationship.

“Even today I heard someone else who was working with (her) and she was like, ‘you hate me yet?’” Jenuwine said. “She’s bagging us and it sucks but at the same time, she’s a hard person not to like. She’s a great person to be around.”

Perhaps there is no one better who exemplifies Blyn’s effect on the Sun Devil hockey team than junior forward Johnny Walker

When he first arrived on campus, his body fat was 19.9%, according to Elite Prospects. But, an emphasis on working out and lifting the past three years has helped him develop into an elite hockey prospect.

Strength and conditioning coach Liane Blyn spots junior forward Johnny Walker (7) during the team's morning workout on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in the weight room of the Carson Student-Athlete Center in Tempe, Arizona.

“I wasn’t lifting as much or doing the right things in the gym but Liane is really specific and good at the small things with off-ice and the nutrition and everything … the critiques she’s made have helped me put on muscle, which is definitely important,” Walker said.

Over that period, Blyn has closely tracked the junior's physical progress.

“When it clicked for Johnny this year he said, ‘now I get it. Now I know why this room is important,’” Blyn said. "He’s 100% dialed into what he needs to do to make this year and next year the best he possibly can.”

Walker spent the majority of this summer in Arizona working out with Blyn, and it’s paying off for him this season; he already has 13 points in just ten games.

“I think more days than not, I hated Liane,” Walker said with a grin. “She gives so much and puts so much into her job and cares so much about us that you’re not only cheating yourself by quitting or not doing what she’s asking but you’re also cheating her and all the time she’s put forth and everything she does to help everyone individually.”

The relationship between Blyn and her athletes is a sacred bond that she cherishes, and it motivates her to push her athletes to keep improving both in athletics and life, she said.

“I don’t have kids, but I view every single kid that I’ve coached as one of my kids,” Blyn said. “When the athletes know you care about them, they’re going to do anything in the world for you. For me, I am doing everything I can to bring out the best in them.

"That’s just the way I am,” she said. 

Reach the reporter at aklatsky@asu.edu and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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