The Manitoba Moose will retire Mike Keane's No. 12 jersey tonight in a celebration of his time both with the local pro franchise and his storied NHL career.
Keane, who won three Stanley Cups with three different teams before spending his final five years as a pro with the Moose, will be the first player to receive such an honour from the hockey team.
A Winnipegger who got his start as a hockey player at Sir John Franklin Community Club, Keane got the most out of his talent and in his prime was considered one of the best two-way players in the game.
He won Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, played junior with the Moose Jaw Warriors and was a member of Team Canada during the infamous Piestany Punchup.
Undrafted, Keane got his chance in pro hockey when John Ferguson, who had watched the teenager play minor hockey in Winnipeg with his son John Jr., gave Serge Savard a call and suggested the Habs take a look.
During the 1990s, the Stanley Cup seemed to follow Mike Keane around.
He was a member of the last Canadiens team to have won a Cup in the spring of 1993. A year later he was named captain of the Habs.
The late Pat Burns described Keane as "one of my favourite players to coach, the ultimate competitor."
The Canadiens traded Keane, along with goalie Patrick Roy, to the Avs at mid-season, and that spring a Cup followed.
When the New York Rangers dealt Keane and teammate Brian Skrudland to the Stars, another Cup was secured.
Said Rangers GM Neil Smith to the two players on their way out: "You don't keep a thoroughbred in the barn, I'm sending you somewhere with a chance to win."
And win they did.
Here's what former teammates had to say about Keane:
"Tough, honest, direct, fearless leader. Easy words that pop up to describe what Mike Keane was all about. Not one teammate I ever played with in 19 years was a better teammate than Mike Keane.
Why you ask? Simple. Winning meant everything, but Mike knew it took the hard way to do it. He demanded everything of himself but demanded it from everyone. He was predictable because he did everything the right way and direct way. But he also was the guy who was first to meet a new player at the rink, call a guy when he had an operation or got the bad news he had just been traded. If I ever had to go to war, I'd want No. 12 to be at my side."
-- Kirk Muller (Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars)
"There were two sides to Mike Keane -- the fierce competitor that wanted to win at any cost, and the player that understood the necessity of having a tight-knit team that played for each other. Here are some examples of each side.
"Fierce competitor: During the 1992-93 season, Mike had told me he would be willing to block an Al Iafrate slapshot (he shot the puck 105 miles an hour in the NHL skills competition that year) with his face to win the Stanley Cup. We won the Cup that year and he didn't even have to block that shot.
"Team-builder: It was the rare team meal that Mike wasn't crawling under the table to "shoe-check" one of the coaches. If upper management was present, it was even funnier. Everyone and anyone was a target if it meant bringing the team together to enjoy a laugh."
-- Ed Ronan (Montreal Canadiens)
"Mike Keane embodies every virtue that we as an organization have sought to embrace over the past 15 years. His selfless commitment to the game of hockey and the standard of excellence he established for all of us left an enduring mark on the Manitoba Moose for many years to come."
-- Mark Chipman (chairman, Manitoba Moose)
"Whenever someone has asked me who has been your favourite teammate over the years, the answer is easy -- Keaner. On the ice, he was the best leader, checker, shot blocker, and he has some good hands too. He expected to win and took losses really hard. I've never seen anyone so competitive. Off the ice, he was always the clown. By far the funniest player I've played with. Mike and his family were very generous to teammates. If someone needed a place to stay or if there was a party, you knew the Keanes were the people hosting."
-- Tyler Bouck (Vancouver Canucks, Manitoba Moose)
"I have a lot of memories of Mike, but to put them in a couple quotes is always difficult. On the serious side, Mike was pound for pound one of the toughest players I have every played with. The ultimate competitor, full of passion. On the lighter side, playing with Mike in junior, one thing I knew for sure, Mike was not going to be my money manager. He always seemed to owe more money on payday than he made."
-- Mark Mackay (Moose Jaw Warriors)
"Keaner is one of the most competitive players I ever played with. He played like a big guy but he was not, and he hates that. He also won the Stanley Cup with three different teams, but it was long after I did it. Love you, Keaner, and congratulations."
-- Claude Lemieux (Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche)
"Keaner knew only one way to play the game -- with passion. His determination, desire and courage allowed him to play for so long. His teammates had the most respect for him because of the way he played. The opposition knew that going to battle in the corner against him, you would either get hit, cross-checked or chirped at, or maybe get punched 1,000 times in 10 seconds if you dared dropping your gloves."
-- Sylvain Lefebvre (Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche)
"It was an honour to start and end my junior career in Moose Jaw with Mike Keane. Mike played a big part in bringing respectability back to the Warrior franchise... Pound for pound, I have never met or played with someone so tough. Mike was a special player in so many ways. He played gritty but could also provide offence. If a player from the other team was 'acting up,' Mike would take care of business. He blocked shots. He killed penalties. He played the power play. He logged tons of minutes. Probably Mike's biggest asset, in my opinion, was his ability to lead. He forced others to be accountable because he always was."
-- Troy Edwards (Moose Jaw Warriors)
Counting on Keaner
The Manitoba Moose are retiring Mike Keane's No. 12 jersey to celebrate his 22 seasons of pro hockey. Here's Keane by the numbers:
Born: May 29, 1967, Winnipeg
Stanley Cup wins: 3
AHL (regular season)
GP G A Pts
443 61 121 182
GP G A Pts
74 11 15 26
NHL (regular season)
GP G A Pts
1,161 171 313 484
GP G A Pts
232 36 41 77
New York Rangers
St. Louis Blues