On Tuesday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers hosted a press conference. Duncan Keith walked in, flanked by his son, to tell the hockey world he was officially hanging up his skates and calling a career.
His next stop will be Toronto, where he will undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in three years when he becomes eligible.
The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Keith in the second round in 2002. Yup, 2 in ’02. So what number did he wear? 2 — of course.
Over the coming two decades, Keith established himself as one of the premier defensemen in the entire National Hockey League. During his press conference Tuesday, he thanked Trent Yawney for helping develop the defensive side of his game while he was in the AHL in Norfolk (you know, back in the day when the Blackhawks developed players).
Keith started his career at the beginning of the 2005-06 season, appearing in 81 games as a rookie. Many fans now forget (or weren’t fans back then to have seen) there were growing pains for both Keith and Brent Seabrook along the way. They weren’t a dominant duo right out of the gate. But they worked hard, developed, and became arguably the best tandem in the NHL soon.
We’ll all remember Keith having his teeth knocked out and then returning to the game during the playoffs. And his “Braveheart” speech during the Stanley Cup rally.
We’ll also remember the little hop he had on the ice when he was jumping a gear (or two) into full speed to accelerate up the ice and join the attack. And his huge, Stanley Cup-cementing goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015, the year he won the Conn Smythe as the most valuable player of the postseason.
He was a warrior. He came to work every night and put it all on the ice. And his resume is among the greatest in the almost-100 year history of the Blackhawks.
No defenseman appeared in more games in the Indian head than Keith, who skated in 1,192 regular-season games with the organization that drafted him. Only four defensemen have scored 100 goals with the Blackhawks: Doug Wilson, Bob Murray, Keith, and Seabrook. And Keith’s 625 points trail only Wilson’s 779 in Blackhawks history among rearguards. His 421 even-strength points are the top all-time for a Blackhawks defenseman.
Keith is the Blackhawks’ all-time leader in postseason games played (135) and points (86). His five game-winning playoff goals is also a franchise record.
His greatness on the ice is bigger than just the Chicago leaderboard, however.
Keith was also a critical member of two gold medal-winning Canadian rosters in the Winter Olympics. The only players with an Olympic gold medal and the Conn Smythe and multiple Norris Trophies at home: Keith and Nicklas Lidström.
He was named one of the Top 100 players in NHL history in 2017, which was a no-brainer. His play on the ice was exceptional and his prime saw him play as well as any defenseman in the NHL.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, his No. 2 will join other Blackhawks legends in the rafters at the United Center. He was the first pick in the rebuild 20 years ago that led to a Stanley Cup dynasty, and was the heartbeat of the greatest core group in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
So as he calls it a career, we say Thank You, Duncan, of allowing us to cheer for you during one helluva career. What a ride!