-- Pretty good month for Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith
, though it didn't start out that way.
On May 24, in a hockey episode well documented in words and video, Keith lost seven teeth during the second period of Game 4 of the Western Conference. While he was treated in the dressing room, he heard the Fratellis' song, "Chelsea Dagger," thumping from the ice level signaling a Blackhawks goal, and started feeling better. Within seven minutes of game time, Keith was back on the ice to lead his team in minutes played (29:02) as Chicago swept the San Jose Sharks before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
Now, on June 24, Keith will wake up as the 2010 Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman.
"To come out and be the guy who gets the award is kind of surreal a little bit," Keith told the media while looking at the famed trophy backstage. "To think of the other defensemen who have won it, and nominated, and the other Blackhawk players who have won it, Chris Chelios, Pierre Pilote to name a couple, to be in that group is kind of unbelievable."
Accepting the Norris on stage, Keith admitted some nervousness ("feels like a playoff game") and gave a shout-out to Blackhawks fans in the audience at the Palms Hotel's Pearl Theater. He thanked his fiancée and noted she was sitting next to Alex Ovechkin, adding a "hands off" warning to the Capitals star.
Keith's thank-you list lasted longer than his time at the podium, so he started his backstage interviews with a big thank you for Blackhawks team therapist Jim Gary.
"When I turned pro, back in Norfolk I started working with him," Keith said. "He's a really big reason why I am up here. Maybe I should have mentioned him earlier in the speech."
Keith said he was unhappy with his play in the final weeks of the regular season, so he called Gary during the first round of Chicago's Cup run.
"One [phone] call really turned my game around," Keith said.
Keith also thanked defensive partner, Canadian Olympic teammate and "good buddy" Brent Seabrook
"Maybe we can get him to win this award sometime too," said Keith, who acknowledged that it would be tough even for himself to repeat given fellow 2010 nominees Drew Doughty and Mike Green -- not to mention Calder rookie winner Tyler Myers.
Keith added Nashville defenseman and another Canadian Olympic teammate Shea Weber to the list of young stars at the position, then quickly gave props to veterans.
"To me, [Nicklas] Lidstrom is still the best," he said.
The Chicago defenseman added he grew up watching the just retired Rob Blake and Scott Niedermayer, which is possible "when you are 12 and those guys start playing in the League at age 20." He added the still-active Chris Pronger to the same revered list.
"Those guys are still the best and I still look up to those guys in a lot of ways," he said.
Not surprisingly, the Norris winner was asked about the reported deal that would send teammates Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to Atlanta.
"It saddens me," he said. "Those are good buddies leaving our team. Bennie is a good friend and I remember first time in prospect camp with Buff; he was 17, I was 19. I grew up watching Sopes in B.C. playing for the Canucks. But I knew things were going to change [because of the NHL salary cap]. It's part of the game."
The last month was part of an astounding year that will continue for Keith, who also won an Olympic gold medal in February. His day with the Stanley Cup this summer -- he will bring it to Pentiction, B.C. -- is going to be July 17. That's one day after Keith turns 27.
Author: Bob Condor | NHL.com Editor-in-Chief