07/18/2010 9:58 AM
- From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
PENTICTON, B.C. -- Jean Keith will never forget the day when she realized her hockey-crazed son, Duncan, was fixated on proving the skeptics wrong.
"One parent asked Duncan, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and he said 'I want to be an NHL player,' " Jean told NHL.com on Saturday. "And the parent just laughed because Duncan was just so small. But he was really mad that she laughed and he asked me, 'Why is she laughing, mom?'
"He was 9 years old at the time, and I knew then his heart was in this for the long haul."
It was a long road to the top but Keith reached hockey's pinnacle this past season – an Olympic gold medalist, Norris Trophy winning defenseman and Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I think I worked hard, for one thing, and it's nice to see some things pay off," Keith said. "I was lucky to be on good teams and a pretty impressive group whether it was Chicago or Team Canada. The Norris Trophy is a result of having good teammates and being on good teams."
The Blackhawks defenseman, who turned 27 on Friday, was certainly glad to share this success with family, friends and fans on Saturday during his day with the Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy in his hometown of Penticton, B.C.
It was quite a memorable day for Keith, who received the Holy Grail at Penticton Airport at 9:20 a.m., posed for pictures at his parents' home, visited the local hospital and was treated like a rock star during a moving ceremony at the South Okanagan Event Center before finally taking the Cup to his beautiful home overlooking Lake Okanagan and picturesque mountaintops for a VIP gathering later in the evening.
For a guy who isn't too keen on snaring the spotlight, Keith played the role graciously and, in the process, put plenty of smiles on the faces of those young and old.
"I love winning the Stanley Cup and I love everything that comes with it," Keith said. "But, at the same time, I don't like some of the attention I get. I like it when my teammates are around so I can stand in the back and enjoy the good times. But this summer has been pretty special and I'm proud of it."
Keith made a $10,000 donation to the Penticton District Regional Hospital and also presented an autographed Team Canada jersey to Penticton mayor Dan Ashton. In turn, Ashton not only proclaimed July 17 as "Duncan Keith Day," but even presented the hometown hero with a key to the city.
"I think as hockey players we make a pretty good living and we all do something we love, and whatever they want to do with that check is fine by me as long as it's going to help the hospital out and help people," Keith said. "Hopefully, it'll make someone's life better."
There's no question that just his presence within the hospital on Saturday was a blessing for some.
"There was one guy in there who wasn't feeling so good and he apparently doesn't have much longer to live, but when he saw the Cup and was touching it, he began talking like he was OK and ready to go," Keith said. "I think as players, we're always focused on doing our job and what we have to do. But when you have a chance to do something special for the sick and make their day -- well, that makes my day too."
Keith's father, Dave, gave a superb speech during his son's ceremony, citing the importance of hard work and perseverance. Even Keith's bantam coach, Rob McLaughlin, offered his thanks and appreciation to his former student and now friend.
"I think when I first had Duncan, he was maybe 112 pounds, but he had that competitive edge of playing as a 19-year-old at the age of 14," McLaughlin praised. "He knew what he wanted and wouldn't take no for an answer. Everybody said he was too small but he looked past all that and just kept moving on."
In addition to his parents and coaches, Keith could always rely on his older brother, Cam, and younger sister, Rebecca, for support.
"Cam's the guy I looked up to more than anyone," Keith said. "I've never said that to him and probably never will, but maybe he'll see it in this article. He's a guy I grew up watching play and always wanted to be like him, have my hair like him and dress like him. He's my older brother, so he was a huge influence in, not only hockey, but my life in general."
"When we were older, I'd be off to the bars and parties with my friends and I remember coming back at 3 a.m. and he'd be outside on his roller blades with a glow-in-the-dark ball shooting it around," Cam Keith said. "I knew right then this kid had a little more determination than me."
Keith won't soon forget the City of Penticton Pipe Band filling the air with bagpipe music en route to the stage within the SOEC before 5,100 fans eagerly waiting his arrival; being interrupted during an NHL.com interview by the sight of his Olympic gold medal around the neck of his dog, and taking the Cup for a ride on the pontoon boat docked behind his house.
"Sharing the Cup with family and friends and sharing in all the good times with the fans by bringing it around the town, whether it's Chicago, or Penticton, is great because it's nice to see the people's faces," Keith said. "Driving back to my place on the bus, I remembered (Jonathan) Toews getting his day with the Cup. I think it really hits you when you actually have the Cup, then it leaves, and then you get it back again to see how much it gets passed around and many people drink out of that thing. I'm just glad to have it back and share it with our family."
In getting back to that encounter with the parent who found humor in Keith's prophetic outlook as an NHL player some 18 years ago, the NHL's top defenseman simply smiled before answering with earnest.
"I was upset and thought, 'Why is that not a possibility?' " he recalled. "I think all those little things like that, at the end of the day, gave me some more drive and determination to prove people wrong. Whatever people said or wrote … I just used as motivation."