Former local minor hockey player now suiting up for Blackhawks

It’s something every young boy who plays hockey dreams of—seeing their name on an NHL roster or hearing their name called for the starting line-up and skating in the spotlight from the bench to the blueline.
However, when the superstar plan doesn’t work out, usually the average 22-year-old guy may have other interests, such as fast cars, partying, girls, work, and freedom.
But former Fort Frances resident Duncan Keith is making his dreams come true these days as a defenceman for the Chicago Blackhawks. As such, he doesn’t have a whole lot of extra time to do what most guys do.
Keith was born in Winnipeg, but moved to Fort Frances when he was just one year old after his dad—a banker—was transferred here.
“I say I was born in Winnipeg, but all of my great childhood memories are from when I lived in Fort Frances,” Keith remarked. “When I was really little, I can remember my parents taking me out for public skating.”
Skating for fun may have been where his love for hockey started. But as he got older, Keith remembers spending most of his time at Memorial Arena (now the Memorial Sports Centre) with his buddies.
“Me and my buddies basically grew up at the arena,” he noted.
Once Keith began playing competitive hockey, his talent and passion stood out.
“He was one of the best little kids I ever coached,” said former Muskie star Bill Tucker, who was Keith’s PeeWee coach here. “He was the most dedicated little guy I ever saw and he just never quit working.”
Which most likely can be attributed to his accomplishments to date.
“He wasn’t very big, but he would make up for it with how hard he tried on the ice,” added Tucker, who recalled only having three defencemen on the team at one time.
“Keith would spend almost the whole game on the ice and he loved it.”
His success at the PeeWee level tipped off his parents to make the move from Fort Frances to British Columbia—and increase his opportunity to pursue a hockey career—when he was 14.
“It was tough to leave Fort,” said Keith. “It was all I knew.”
Besides being comfortable with the town, Keith said it was even tougher leaving behind his friends with whom he was very close.
“Everyone is so grounded and down to earth in Fort,” he explained. “The town and all my friends hold a place in my heart.”
Keith even gave a shout-out to his old Fort Frances friends and wanted to thank them for all the great memories.
Remembering his roots and cherishing childhood friendships prove how grounded Keith is himself—qualities that may have aided in his success today. And his obvious strong character only complemented his drive to succeed.
“Since I can remember I wanted to be a pro hockey player,” he said.
Asked if his intense game and practice schedule ever interfered with regular teenage experiences was when his true passion for the game came out.
“I don’t think so at all: I loved the game,” he explained. “When you love something that much, you don’t miss out. To play hockey was what I wanted.”
And to play hockey was what he got. Through his ambitious struggle to make it to the top, Keith had to overcome certain obstacles that were working against him, such as his size and weight.
“I think it [size and weight] is something that is overrated,” he reasoned. “It’s like there’s a prototypical image everyone has in their mind.”
Regardless, Keith worked on and off the ice to meet goals he had set for himself, such as a weight increase and muscle gain.
“Mostly my body grew into itself but off-ice training is really important,” he stressed.
Keith advised young players looking to improve their game to try plyometrics, which is a combination of jumping, bounding, and hopping exercises.
They look to intensify the explosive reaction of the athlete through powerful muscular contractions. “I don’t think it’s stressed enough how much a player can improve,” Keith said.
Although he can’t lift as much as weight as he would like, his off-ice training certainly has benefited his hockey career. Keith is off to a great start with eight points and 24 penalty minutes in his first season with the Blackhawks.
“My biggest strength is my skating,” he said. “You can’t be a good hockey player, or even a decent hockey player, if you can’t skate.
Keith also described himself as the quarterback of the team. “I can read the ice and read the plays well,” he noted.
So what would this budding star be doing if he wasn’t making it happen in the NHL? Probably watching his favorite movie, “Dumb and Dumber” (“I can’t get enough of that movie,” he said), and maybe taking business courses in school.
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” Keith added. “I just know I’ve always wanted to be a hockey player.”