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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
(Photo courtesy of Amy Carney)

How Acquired: 1988 Entry Draft, 76th overall
Buffalo stats (1991-93): 51 games; 4-9-13, 77 PIMs
Career NHL stats (1991-2008): 1,018 games; 45-183-228, 904 PIMs

After criss-crossing North America for 16 NHL seasons with six different teams, Keith Carney decided it was time to share that life experience with his family. So with his wife, Amy, and their four children along for the ride, the Carneys are currently in the midst of a seven-month journey to travel across the United States in a motorhome.

With his hockey career keeping him away from home for so many years, and now being pulled in many directions as parents of four active children, Keith and Amy felt the time was right to finally take the family trip they’d been talking about for years.

“It’s been in the works for quite a while. When our kids were small we would talk about doing a trip like this, just getting away spending time as a family while seeing the country. As you live your life you just keep putting things off,” explains Carney, who is on sabbatical from his position as a Player Development Coach/Scout with the Chicago Blackhawks. “With my triplet sons (Kade, Aidan and Cole) just turning 13, and my daughter (Morgan) turning 11, we decided that we needed to do this now while they’re in middle school or it’s never going to happen.”

The trip started in June from the family’s home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., with the mode of transportation being a 43-foot motorhome. They’ve got the family car in tow, along with bikes for the kids to ride at their campground stops along the way.

Any parent that’s planned a family vacation knows the obstacles of traveling with children, and Carney says this trip hasn’t been much different.

“There’s days when everyone is short with each other just because of the closeness. We are together 24 hours a day. You start looking for some quiet time and alone time, but it’s tough,” laughs Carney during a phone conversation Tuesday morning from Myrtle Beach, S.C. “That said, the kids all just get along so well.

“It does get tight at night with six of us living in a motorhome. But during the day we’re always outside doing things.”

Carney says there’s more to the trip than just sightseeing, and they’ve tried to find a perfect balance when planning each stop.

“Of course you want to make it educational. We’re trying to do more schooling stuff now that the school year has started. We block out some time everyday where they are reading, doing workbooks or doing some things online. But you don’t want to go overboard with it where the kids lose interest and take things for granted. We’ve tried to separate it a bit where we’re having some fun but also learning some things too.

“There’s so much to see in this country – things like the various National Parks, along with the Civil War and Revolutionary War history. When we were in Boston we spent a couple of days touring historical sites. But then we’d get away from it, and have a down day where we’d spend time at the campground and do whatever you enjoy.”

Playing hockey is what Carney enjoyed doing as a kid, and he turned that into a successful NHL career that started in Buffalo, making his NHL debut with the Sabres on March 8, 1992 against the New York Islanders. Carney would go on to play with Chicago, Phoenix, Anaheim, Vancouver and Minnesota.

“Buffalo was my first stop and it was a great way to break into the league with some good players and a really great coaching staff.

“John Muckler was the coach at the time, and I also worked with guys like Don Lever, John Van Boxmeer and John Tortorella. They are all good hockey people with great hockey minds.

“I also enjoyed spending time with guys like Rob Ray and Brad May, young players like myself who were also getting started in the careers. It was just a great place to get started and learn what it takes to be a pro hockey player.”

Buffalo was also where Carney quickly learned the harsh realities of being a professional athlete. At just 23 years of age, Carney was traded to Chicago on October 27, 1993 in a deal that saw Craig Muni sent to Buffalo.

“It was definitely a shock, but it’s also the reality that you really don’t have any control of the business. It really opens your eyes,” said Carney, now 44. “I was just starting my third season and I thought I was off to a good start. But you grow up from it, learn from it, and always continue to get better.

“It was tough being traded as a young player so early in my career, but it works out for both sides. I went to a great place in Chicago, but I’ll always have good memories of Buffalo because that’s where I started.”

Carney put a lot of miles on his body during a successful NHL career, and his motorhome is now doing the same. The Carneys have already visited 32 states in four-and-half months, and are currently working their way along the east coast. Carney estimates they are ahead of schedule by about 10 days, and expects to return home in late December.

“The plan has always been to spend Christmas on the road, because we’ve told the kids from Day One that traveling the country would be their gift.”

To keep up with the travel adventures of the Carney family, CLICK HERE to follow along with Amy on her blog.
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