Great players who have the ability to change the course of a game often get booed. Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith is no exception to that, especially in Vancouver.
Before the Blackhawks took on the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place on Wednesday, Canucks legends Henrik and Daniel Sedin were honoured with a ceremony for their jersey retirements.
During their speech, the Sedin brothers reminisced about some of their battles in their NHL careers. But as soon as Keith’s name was mentioned, the entire crowd instantly booed at the top of their lungs.
With a deep history between the Blackhawks/Canucks rivalry, Keith was excited that his team was chosen to be in the building for the occasion.
“It was awesome,” Keith said Saturday during After Hours on Hockey Night in Canada.
“It’s two special players that, to be honest with you, even I grew up admiring and idolizing.”
Especially after his family moved to British Columbia as a teenage, Keith understands the impact the Sedin twins had in the Vancouver community.
“Everything that they do on the ice is one thing, how good they are, but everything they’ve done off the ice for Vancouver and for all of British Columbia, it’s second to none,” he said. “It was a special night for them and it was well deserved.”
Keith always dreamed about playing in the NHL. As a kid, he wrote on a piece of paper in bubble letters, “Duncan Keith will make it to the NHL.”
He didn’t realize it, but his parents kept that piece of paper and framed it. When Keith brought the Stanley Cup home to Penticton, B.C., in August 2013, his parents brought out the infamous paper for a photo.
He also credits his father for telling him bedtime stories about making it in the NHL for fostering his determination.
“Back then, I didn’t think anything of it. It was kind of helping me go to sleep,” Keith said.
“He planted that seed in my head from a really young age and kind of set the dream. It’s a pretty powerful thing when you think about it because basically it’s visualizing what you want to do with your life and what you want to happen. And it worked out.”
His dream also impacted aspects of his everyday life. For example, if the phone was ringing when Keith was a kid, he’s play a game with himself where he had to do 10 push-ups before he would allow himself to answer the phone. He believed each of these games would power him closer to the NHL.
“I believed that if you want something in life, you have to put all your energy into that, and I certainly did that,” he said. “I was always lucky to have very supportive parents and family, my brother and sister, and great coaches along the way.”
Now, the hockey world knows Keith is a force to be reckoned with. He’s recorded 99 goals and 499 points over 15 years in the NHL.
What’s even more impressive is how much time Keith spends on the ice each game. The 36-year-old is averaging 25 minutes on the ice per game in his career. During the 2014-15 cup run, he was averaging over 30 minutes a game, and he is currently leading the Blackhawks in ice time for the 15th consecutive season.
“I remember as a kid I was always a really good cross country runner,” he said. “We had those races back in Fort Frances, Ont., and I always did really well in there so it’s kind of carried over. I’ve worked hard in the gym over the years to develop the strength I need. When you feel strong on the ice, it helps push the legs out there.”
With the NHL trade deadline approaching on Feb. 24, if the Blackhawks were to become sellers, there’s a good chance Keith would be looked at as a hot commodity. But with a “no movement clause” in his current contract through to 2022-23, would Keith consider waving it for a chance to go to a cup contender?
“It’s a hard question because that hasn’t happened,” he said. “I think my heart has always been in Chicago. I’ve been there since I was drafted at 18-years-old, so 18 years later I’ve been in Chicago and I’ve made it my home.”
Through all the ups and downs over his 15 years with the Blackhawks, Keith really wants to stay to try to bring home another cup to the Windy City.
“It’s all I want to do. Not many guys get to win a cup, and we’ve been able to do three in Chicago. And I think that list gets even smaller when you talk about guys who have won four,” he said.
“It’s definitely a goal of mine. I believe I want to do it in Chicago, we’ll see what they want to do.”