Puck Daddy - NHL

The first time I skated with Duncan Keith(notes) was during summer shinny, and guys were calling him "Bambi." It wasn't meant to be a chirp; it's just the most famous deer name out there, and that's what he skates like.

More accurately, he moves on the ice like a deer filled with helium, bounding on top of the ice, going from 0 to 60 like a sports car. Watching that for the first time, I had a depressing epiphany: No matter how much I train, no matter how much I practice, there is no physical way to get to the level of someone with gifts like that.

On top of those gifts, the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman is a nice guy who's always treated me well, so I thought I'd give him a call for a little hockey chat.

Q. You must be tired, logging all those minutes in all those games.

KEITH: I don't know who makes the schedule man, but we've played like 15 games or something already, and it's still early.

Yeah, that's a little absurd. So, have you guys done any team building stuff yet so far, or does that stuff happen less in the NHL than it does at other levels?

You know what, we haven't done them as much as we used to do them back in juniors or minor hockey or even the American League. For whatever reason it seems like when you're in the NHL, guys have their families and it's tough to put it together. I think the only team-building stuff we've done this year was just go out for some team dinners. Our schedule has just been so busy, we've gone for some team dinners on the road, so that's always good to get the guys together and sitting at the same table, but, I think as we go along we've got a few things planned, it's still early on in the season. Our team will have a few trips planned, special getaways or whatever. I think there are a few things we'll be definitely looking forward to doing.

Does it feel as comfortable in the dressing room so far? I know there's quite a bit of turnover since the past season, is it kind of where it was last year, or are you guys still working on that?

I think we're still working on it, we finished on such a high note playing with guys you've been with for awhile, and there's no better feeling, and so, you come back this year and there's so many new guys and it's such a different team, but I think we're slowly gaining a good understanding of how we need to play to be successful, or how this team has to play and it's coming along pretty good.

Good stuff. Here's a couple random questions: Have you ridden in a cab with Patrick Kane(notes) since his ... "event?"  Do you guys just constantly grill him about that whole thing?

[Laughs] I've ridden in them with him, he's fine, but we joke around, yeah. We gave it to him a little more last year, so I think he's learnt from it, y'know, but he still takes a little bit of ribbing from the guys.

In honor of Movember I gotta ask what you think of your coach's awesome mustache.

Oh, I know I could never give him a run, he's got a pretty solid mustache goin' on there, he's had that thing for quite awhile too. He's easily up there in the group of the league's top mustaches. There's not too many people who could compete with him.

Okay, here's something I'd like to know: what do you physically get for winning the Norris Trophy? A cheque?

Um, I didn't get anything from the league. I mean, unless you have a contract, and I think it's mostly guys on entry-level deals that have those bonus-laden contracts, you don't get anything. I didn't get anything from the league and had nothing in my contract, so I got my name on the trophy and a nice little replica trophy and that's good enough for me.

So, at this point, can you basically walk into any bar in Chicago and get a free beer?

[Laughs] Pretty much, things are going pretty good right now for us in Chicago, but if you want to keep that momentum going, that momentum that's spilt over the past couple years, you've got to keep winning. I'd say we're off to an "average" start, y'know, and we need to keep on going so hopefully those free drinks can keep on comin'.

Let's say you guys are playing the Atlanta Thrashers for the Stanley Cup, do you think you can clear Byfuglien out of the crease?

I dunno if I could clear him out, but I could kick his feet out from under him pretty quick. He's a big guy so, if he goes down it's harder for him to get back up. You gotta outsmart a guy like that.

Is that hard to do?

He's pretty smart actually, for a guy who doesn't come off as, uh, being the smartest guy. He's tough to beat with one-liners, I had a lot of fun playing with him, man. I'm a lot smaller than him, so I gotta find ways to be smarter.

Nice. For pure entertainment value, can you tell everyone a little bit about Dany Heatley's(notes) summer hockey style?

[Laughs] He's ... he's pretty aggressive. I haven't actually skated with him in a year and a bit, but he goes pretty hard. Maybe that's why he scores so many goals, there's just no letting up on those high slappers, no matter who we chuck in the net.

[Laughs] True. Before I let you go I thought I'd get your thoughts about the difference between going the college and junior hockey routes, since you're the rare player who played at both levels. Which route would you recommend to an up-and-comer today?

Um, well, that's a tough question. I think there are pros and cons to either one. If you're good enough, you'll make it work no matter what, so that's up the individual to do that. For me personally, I wasn't the biggest kid at the time, going to college when I was 17 seemed like the right idea - it would give me four years to get bigger and fill out. And then a year went by, and I had gotten bigger and was already drafted and I felt, y'know, what the heck if I've already been drafted now, I'm six feet, so I decided to take my chances playing junior. Both routes are great routes, they're very different, but I think at the end of the day whichever one the player chooses they've gotta make it work for themselves.

Good call. So in keeping with my topic bouncing ways, are you sick of Chelsea Dagger yet?

[Laughs] Yeah well ... they've got that one on quite a bit, but I don't mind that one because it's our home rink. I could see how it could get pretty annoying for the other team. I think when Kaner scores and they play Rock Me Like a Hurricane it's great, you know how he's always celebrating after his goals, so I like that one.

Baseball players have at-bat songs, would there be a song you'd want to play when you score?

I dunno, I like the heavier metal stuff, so I don't know if that'd go over too well with fans, I don't really have too many ideas off the top of my head - something like an AC/DC. I'm actually really into this new band that sounds a lot AC/DC called "Airborne," so probably something by them.

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