The Stanley Cup is a lot of things to a lot of people. To Chicago Blackhawks
defenseman Duncan Keith
, it was the best pain medication in history.
Keith arrived in New York for the recent Player Media Tour still sporting temporary caps to deal with the seven teeth he lost when he was hit in the mouth by a Patrick Marleau
shot during Game 4 of the Blackhawks' sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference Finals. Amazingly, he missed only about five minutes in that game, and didn't miss a shift in the six-game Stanley Cup Final that saw the Hawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers
for their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
Winning the Cup took away a lot of the pain.
"It was definitely worth it all in the end," said Keith, who added that he hadn't had a chance to get back to his Chicago dentist during the summer to get his permanent caps. "It's tough to lose your teeth, but we won the game I lost my teeth in and went on to win the Stanley Cup. That makes it a lot easier."
The Cup was one of three trophies Keith won last season. In late February, he was part of Team Canada's gold medal-winning squad at the Winter Olympics, and in June he received the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman after scoring 14 goals and finishing with 69 points, both career bests.
And at 27 and with five NHL seasons under his belt, Keith is just hitting his prime.
"He's awesome," teammate Patrick Kane
said. "Not only is he unbelievable defensively, but he's very easy to play with as a forward. We have developed some chemistry where we kind of know where the other one is on breakouts. He's definitely deserving of the Norris Trophy.
"He takes the game very seriously, and he wants to be the best. He's very engaged -- if he has a bad night, you can be sure it's not going to happen two nights in a row. He's a real competitor."
Keith, Kane and the rest of the Hawks go into the 2010-11 season trying to do something no team has done since the Detroit Red Wings
in 1997 and '98 -- repeat as Stanley Cup champs. However, they'll be doing it with a lot of new faces in the lineup. Salary cap-related moves have helped to cost the Hawks more than a third of the team that brought the Cup back to Chicago.
"Those guys were good teammates and great friends of mine," Keith said. "That's what's tough about hockey -- it's a business. With the salary cap, we needed to shed some salary. There had to be some trades made. That's the business of it all. … We've got some new guys coming in, and I'm looking forward to playing with them now."
Winning the Cup brings some perks with it -- Keith recently got to throw out the first pitch before a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and later got to lead the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," joking that "I could use a little work on my singing."
He said the best part of his offseason was bringing the Cup back to his hometown of Penticton, B.C., where a day was held in his honor.
"It's always kind of funny hearing 'Duncan Keith
Day,' and having a day named after you," he said. "It was a special day, a day for all my family and friends. It was pretty nice, what the city did for me, to be able to put the whole ceremony on at the arena and show their appreciation and how proud they were that someone from their hometown and what we were able to do.
"At the end of the day it was fun bringing the Stanley Cup back there and sharing it with everyone and letting everyone take pictures with it, and seeing it up close and personal. It was cool to bring it around and take pictures with the youth hockey teams, the kids, and give them a little inspiration."
"It was definitely worth it all in the end. It's tough to lose your teeth, but we won the game I lost my teeth in and went on to win the Stanley Cup. That makes it a lot easier."
-- Duncan Keith
Keith said he had no trouble relating to the kids' excitement.
"They were pretty excited getting their picture taken with (the Cup) and meeting an NHL player. I know when I was a kid, to meet an NHL player would have been the highlight of my summer," he said.
However, the fun part is over now. Keith and his teammates are ready to do the hard work of trying to bring home back-to-back Cups, something the Hawks never have done. Despite the roster turnover -- Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi
and playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien
are among those who are wearing different uniforms this fall -- Keith feels the Hawks have a good chance to repeat.
Not that it will be easy.
"We are the defending Cup champs," he said, "but I think there are a lot of teams that are contenders. We have our work cut out for us, but I'm confident in our group and the players that we are changing and we have brought in that we are going to be OK."