Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Keane's your man, Moose: sign him

Three-time Stanley Cup winner will only make team better

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The Manitoba Moose seem to have reached the conclusion they should begin considering life after Mike Keane.

Keane, Moose captain for the past five seasons, hangs in limbo these days, waiting to hear if he'll be given the chance to play one more season.

After 22 years of pro hockey and at 43 years old, the fire still burns for Keane.

But this decision doesn't lie just with the player. Management has to be a willing partner for the dance to continue.

So far, the Moose have had very little to say on the subject. Presumably, they are weighing their options on what Moose GM Craig Heisinger calls an "organizational decision." In other words, the GM alone won't be making the call on Keane's future.

It doesn't just come down to whether Keane can still play. He can. But with only five veteran spots available on an AHL roster each night, Keane has to be elite.

That appears to be in debate among the club's big thinkers.

Can Keane contribute more than several other players already under contract to play for the Moose this season? Sure thing.

But this is the AHL, not the NHL and the best players don't always play. The Moose have to live under the AHL's roster rules as well as find room for the prospects loaned them by the Vancouver Canucks.

Moose legend Jimmy Roy found himself in this squeeze a while back and rather than play every second night he packed his bags for Europe and extended his career.

Keane isn't in the same position. At 43 and entrenched with a family in Winnipeg, he's not packing his gear for Europe or Syracuse or anywhere else. It's the Moose or bust.

Heisinger finds himself in a difficult spot. Keane is everything Heisinger likes in a hockey player: Smart, tough, no nonsense.

Keane's a pro, through and through, and respects the game. Give Heisinger a pen and ask him to draw a hockey player and he'd produce a reasonable facsimile of Keane.

There's likely a friendship there as well. The two have known each other for close to 30 years. Keane is not a number or a piece of meat where Heisinger is concerned and any decision the Moose make on the three-time Stanley Cup champion will be made with care.

Just invite him to camp and see if he can make the team, goes one school of thought. And put rookie coach Claude Noel in the position of having to cut a Manitoba hockey legend during his first month in the province? Not fair.

No, the Moose must make a decision soon and live with it. Keep the captain or cut him loose.

Does the hockey team owe Keane more than a decision made in mid-July? Yes, but this is a business and Heisinger is judged on results.

Last season, the results were poor and no doubt the GM is feeling pressure to be better this year.

We sent Heisinger an email on Tuesday asking if there was an update on Keane and got a one-word answer: No.

Fair enough. The GM is tight-lipped at the best of times and we can understand his reticence to discuss this subject.

So we'll turn to some of Heisinger's old words. He's told us a number of times he wouldn't bet against Keane after someone told him he couldn't do something.

Want to be better this year Moose? Sign the old man. We bet he'll make you better.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2010 C5

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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