Go West, Young Man
Life is good for Kelowna
Rockets defenseman Duncan Keith.
in Kelowna, British Columbia, are approaching 70 degrees. The
Rockets host Red Deer Friday in the first game of a best-of-seven
series to determine the Western Hockey League champion, with the
winner advancing to the CHL Memorial Cup tournament in Quebec
City later this month. Keith, who hails from nearby Penticton,
has been a big part of the team’s success, scoring 11 goals
and 35 assists in 37 regular season games and adding a goal and
nine assists in 13 postseason contests.
Keith left Michigan State in December for the WHL's Kelowna
Quite a change
for a guy who made the decision to jump to the major junior ranks
from Michigan State a little more than four months ago –
a decision he regretted almost immediately. Hours after signing
with Kelowna, Keith had a change of heart and sought a return
to East Lansing, where he was midway through his sophomore season.
Hindsight has offered Keith the proper perspective, however.
I definitely think it was the right decision for me,” he
said. “I’m on a great team, the guys have been good
to me and I’ve learned so much over the last four months.
I’m really happy with the decision I made.”
he decided to leave MSU because of the limitations of a 36-game
regular season schedule – “The more games
I play, the better I am,” he proclaimed –
and a style of play that didn’t cater to his strengths.
of a puck-control defenseman,” he explained. “I find
that I play better on teams that control the play rather than
shooting it out of the zone as soon as you see trouble. I’d
rather try to make a pass and break it out like that, then go
on the rush.
“At MSU, I’d
want to play too well and try to think too much and end up costing
the team a goal. Here, I’m more worried about playing the
game and letting it come to me.”
Though he’s thrilled
with his experience in Kelowna, Keith is quick to point out that
his time with Michigan State wasn’t a total loss.
a lot from Coach (Ron) Mason about fitting into a new system and
playing with different types of players,” Keith said. “I
keep in touch with my old roommate, Kevin Estrada, quite a bit.
We talk on the phone once or twice a week. I’ll always remember
my time at MSU and the guys I played with – they
are great guys.”
A second-round selection
by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Keith expects
to attend the organization’s prospects camp this summer.
He’s unsure whether he’ll be invited to the team’s
training camp next fall and expects to be back in Kelowna next
season. Not a big deal, says the lanky blueliner, as the franchise
hosts the 2004 Memorial Cup and gets the automatic bid that goes
along with it. Keith’s focus, however, remains on the task
played this late in any season before,” he said. “The
town is going crazy. Everyone is trying to enjoy the fun while