Man of the hour

After over 1,600 games in both the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, Winnipeg native Mike Keane finally had his jersey retired to the rafters last Saturday at the MTS Centre.

In front of a packed crowd, members of Keane’s family, joined by True North Chairman Mark Chipman and Premier Greg Selinger, came out at ice level to help introduce a commemorative video highlighting Keane’s lengthy career. A montage of in-game clips were followed by brief interviews with the likes of Joe Sakic, Guy Carbonneau, Patrick Roy and Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwendyk, the current GM of the Dallas Stars, also made a surprise in-person appearance to congratulate Keane on his special night.

“Within days he became our captain,” Chipman said, speaking of Keane’s arrival to the Manitoba Moose. “And in the five years that followed he led our team in every respect. He left a standard of excellence that left a permanent impression on all of us.”

Before the ceremonial raising of Keane’s number 12 to the rafters, the first number ever retired in Moose history, the hometown hero was awarded the Order of the Buffalo Hunt by Selinger and presented with both a golf trip to Pebble Beach and an artist’s rendering of the Moose captain’s career on canvas. The order is the highest honour the province can bestow on an individual and is reserved for those who have demonstrated outstanding skills in the area of leadership, service and community commitment.

“It’s simply unbelievable,” said Keane, addressing the home crowd. “To play in front of your family and friends in your hometown is something I’ll never forget.”

Following the ceremony, the Moose gave Keane a game to remember, defeating the San Antonio Rampage by a score of 5-0. Manitoba goaltender Eddie Lack earned the shutout for the home team, while Sergei Shirokov collected four assists and Cody Hodgson tallied his 11th goal of the season.

Although the night was an overall positive story for the Moose, the game was almost mired in controversy when, late in the third period, San Antonio’s Bracken Kearns hit Manitoba’s Mark Flood with a dangerous head shot. Luckily, Flood was able to get up under his own strength but Moose centre Garth Murray was given a roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct when he initiated a fight with Kearns that the Rampage forward wanted no part of. Kearns also received a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct for his hit on Flood.

Keane began his NHL career in 1988 with the Montreal Canadiens. In his fourth season with the Canadiens, Keane helped the club earn their first Stanley Cup since the 1985-86 season. Keane served as Montreal’s captain in 1995, until the time that he and teammate Patrick Roy were traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

In his first season with Colorado, Keane, with teammates Roy, Sakic and Peter Forsberg, once more helped lead his team to a Stanley Cup, his second in the span of four years. Keane would spend another year in Colorado before joining the New York Rangers for the 1997-98 season. In the final months of his season with New York, Keane was traded to the Dallas Stars where he would stay through to the 2000-01 season.

Keane won his third Stanley Cup in 1999 with Dallas, where he played with such all-stars as Nieuwendyk, Mike Modano and Brett Hull. In the final years of his NHL career, Keane spent time with the St. Louis Blues, the Vancouver Canucks and, once more, the Colorado Avalanche, where he served as one of the team’s alternate captains.

In 2005, Keane signed with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, the professional hockey team of his hometown Winnipeg. While serving as the team’s captain, Keane played for the Moose for five seasons, helping Manitoba make the playoffs in five straight years, including a 2009 run to the Calder Cup finals.

The first 4,000 fans attending the game for Mike Keane Night also received commemorative mini-banners, replicating the #12 Keane banner that was lifted to the rafters Saturday night.