Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith: I want to play until I’m 45

Brayden Point scored in overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chris Chelios, Jaromir Jagr, Gordie Howe. These are the only skaters to ever play in the NHL at age 45.

But if Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith gets his way, he’ll be joining them.

“I want to play until I’m 45,” Keith said, according to Mark Lazarus of Chicago Sun-Times, before the Blackhawks lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. “Honestly.”

Now 34, Keith has a long way to go before 45. But he has yet to lose a step almost two months into his 13th season.

Keith has appeared in all 21 of Chicago’s games this season and leads the team in ice time per game at 25:09. For his career he’s remained mostly healthy, appearing in 934 games with his only season below 74 games coming in 2015-16 when he had knee surgery.

When asked to expand on his comment, Keith said he’s feeling like a kid again.

“I feel like I’m 22 right now; I do. I’m 34, and I feel great,” he said. “I feel better than I did at times when I was 27, 28.”

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Chelios is the only defenceman ever to play at age 45. He retired in 2009 at age 48 after 26 seasons.

Zdeno Chara, 40, is the NHL’s oldest active defenceman after Mark Streit retired earlier this season. Chara still averages 24 minutes a night for the Bruins but it’s hard to see him still playing in five years.

Playing that long is not easy.

Keith knows this and said if he’s going to extend his career into his 40s, he’s going to turn to some other great players for inspiration.

“You look at [Nicklas] Lidstrom and [Chris] Pronger, those guys weren’t always skating 100 miles an hour every shift,” Keith said. “It was being smart and being in good position and skating hard when you had to.”

His coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t surprised to hear Keith’s comments and won’t be betting against him achieving that goal.

“I could see it, the way he takes care of himself and his conditioning level,” Quenneville said. “I don’t think he’ll be playing these kinds of minutes, but I like his ambition.”

It’s obviously impossible to know now if Keith will play for 11 more years but he’s putting himself in a good position to have a long career.

One thing we do know though is that he still loves the game.

“I have a lot of fun, and I feel good,” he said.

That’s a great attitude to have.

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