Winning the Stanley Cup is unbelievable, said Duncan Keith.
It’s the same as when he won it the first time in 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Keith and the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins in six games to clinch the 2013 Stanley Cup.
What wasn’t similar is how the two Game 6s on the road played out.
“Definitely in the first one a sense of whether the puck went in or not,” he recalled of Patrick Kane’s heroics, which not many knew beat Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton. “This time, it was such a crazy ending that I think really made it special. Being able to celebrate properly right off the bat.”
Keith, who is back in Penticton for the off-season, said crazy is the only way to explain what happened in the Stanley Cup-clinching game against the Bruins.
“There’s so many highs and lows in playoff hockey,” said Keith, who played with the Penticton Panthers for two seasons. “We went through so many highs throughout the playoffs. Game 6 was just typical of the way the whole playoffs went. We were down the whole game. We could have been down more in the first period if it wasn’t for our goalie (Corey Crawford).”
The Hawks defenceman said they regrouped after the first period with a pep talk, since they were only down a goal. They knew there was lots of hockey to be played. The Hawks tied it up, then the Bruins made it 2-1 late in the third.
“Your mind is kind of racing, wondering whether you are going to go back to Game 7, but you still got time left,” he said. “It can still be done.”
Then the Hawks make it 2-2 on a goal from Bryan Bickell at 18:44 and Keith said the Hawks now thought about overtime.
“I was on the bench then all of a sudden, we scored 17 seconds later. I couldn’t believe it,” said the 2010 Canadian Olympic gold medalist for Canada and Norris Trophy winner. “We thought we won the Cup right there. There was still a minute to play. We had to keep it together.”
Boston, said Keith, were their toughest opponents in the playoffs. The Bruins sacrificed their bodies blocking shots and played a style the Hawks had yet to see. Keith said the Hawks had their chances, and then they just disappeared.
“Whether it was a stick that would get in the way, or a guy wdiving in front of it, just frustrating in that regard,” he recalled. “I think we did a good job sticking with it. I think it just showed how close those two teams were going to overtime and the length of overtimes both games went.”
Having his son Colton in the Stanley Cup highlighted celebrating the victory.
“I’m sure he’ll look at that picture maybe later on in life and appreciate it a little more,” said Keith.
As for having his day with the Cup, that will be Aug. 31 and Keith intends to start making plans to share the beautiful trophy with Penticton.
With it being three years since his first championship win, Keith was asked if going through playoff disappointments makes him appreciate the two championship wins more.
“Absolutely,” said Keith, who was born in Winnipeg, but also lived in Fort Frances, Ont., before moving to Penticton. “Anybody that’s ever won one, even the guys that go to the final and end up losing it, you realize how long of a grind it is. How good you have to be to win the Cup. I’m just happy I’m part of an organization and a team that will do everything it can to try and win every year.”
Keith had a feeling the Hawks had a good team because of the skill the players possessed.
Losing to the Phoenix Coyotes the year before was tough. He felt they played hard, but couldn’t solve goalie Mike Smith. The playoff losses lingered in the players’ minds, yet they knew expectations this season were high. Keith said everyone arrived at training camp following the lockout in great shape.
“I saw how fast the team was the first few practices,” said Keith, who has 59 goals and 309 points in 607 NHL regular season games, to go with eight goals and 43 points in 74 playoff tilts. “How high the tempo was. Sure enough we had such a good start (24 games without a loss to set a new NHL record) that eventually I kind of thought we had a really good team. It was just a matter of putting it together in playoffs. Playoffs as everybody knows is a different animal.”
With the core the Hawks possess that includes captain Jonathan Toews, Kane and Patrick Sharp, Keith feels they should contend for the Stanley Cup every year.
“There are a lot of good teams in the league,” said Keith, listed at six-foot-one and 200 pounds. “You have to have some luck. Have some things go your way. I think we have a good chance at winning more Stanley Cups.”
Before Keith has his day with the Stanley Cup, he will be attending Hockey Canada’s Olympic orientation camp Aug. 25 to 28 in Calgary.
“I feel like it’s a privilege just to be invited to this camp,” said Keith. “I’m going to prepare as best I can to have a good start to the season and show them I deserve to be on that team.”