One of Cindy Magnuson’s favorite stories about her late husband Keith occurred soon after his tragic passing in 2003, but it says everything about his life.
Cindy and her daughter Molly had to take son Kevin to the airport so he could return to law school at the University of Denver. While checking in, one of the baggage handlers saw the name “Magnuson” on Kevin’s luggage tags and asked if he was related to Keith. Magnuson traveled frequently for his job as vice president of sales for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and the airport employees always enjoyed his company.
When Kevin said that he was his son, the man asked how Keith was doing. Another baggage handler pulled him aside to relay the sad news.
“They came back and started to hug us,” recalls Cindy. “They told us, ‘we loved Keith so much.’ That just said it all about Keith.”
When you talk to anyone who knew “Maggie” – whether it be family, friends, teammates or the fans who watched him play for 11 seasons in Chicago – you quickly realize that his greatness extended well beyond the hockey rink. Magnuson played every game in a Blackhawks sweater with enormous dedication, but that dedication was exceeded by his devotion to those close to him and his community.
“Keith always said he loved his wife Cindy more than hockey,” says former teammate and lifelong friend Cliff Koroll, “but knowing how much he loved hockey, he must have really loved Cindy a great deal.”
Magnuson’s story begins in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the farm boy named Keith Arlen Magnuson moved when he was nine years old. It was there he would play junior hockey and begin a friendly competition with another aspiring hockey player, Koroll, who would become Magnuson’s teammate at the University of Denver and with the Blackhawks.
“We played on different teams – hockey, baseball, football, you name it – and competed against each other through high school,” explains Koroll. “He was like a little fly. You’d keep swatting him away, but he’d keep coming after you. He made up for his lack of natural ability and size with his aggressiveness and great attitude.”
When Koroll left to play collegiate hockey at Denver, he convinced Magnuson to follow him the next season. Magnuson would help Denver win two NCAA Championships; the first in 1968 and again in 1969 serving as team captain.
From there both Magnuson and Koroll were signed by the Blackhawks, where Magnuson established himself as the team’s physical presence, protecting flashier players such as Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull.