Keane still living dream

Mike Keane, an NHL veteran who has won three Stanley Cups and now is a member of the Manitoba...

Mike Keane, an NHL veteran who has won three Stanley Cups and now is a member of the Manitoba Moose, participated in the AHL skills competition Sunday night at Ricoh Coliseum. (Toronto Sun/Ernest Doroszuk)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Mike Keane earned a reputation in the National Hockey League as a hard worker whose competitive spirit spread to his teammates.

So it's no surprise the 39-year-old is chugging along in professional hockey, two years after his career probably should have concluded when the lockout did.

It's just that Keane is earning a paycheque in the American Hockey League, and tonight will be the captain of Team Canada in the AHL all-star game at the Ricoh Coliseum.

"It's the best job in the world, so why stop?" Keane said. "I enjoy coming to the rink and playing at a high level. I don't want to play just for the sake of playing. I want compete and win and make the best of it."

Keane skates for the Manitoba Moose, but does not have a contract with its parent club, the Vancouver Canucks. The Winnipeg native could have walked away, with no regrets, from his playing days when the lockout hit. In a 16-year career, he became one of eight players in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams (Montreal, Colorado and Dallas).

Keane was captain of the Canadiens in the mid-1990s but never skated in an NHL all-star game. A big reason why he is in Toronto for the AHL event is not because he is tearing up the league (Keane has seven goals and nine assists in 46 games). He remains a premier penalty-killer and the young players regard him with respect.

"It's something else to see him in here," said 20-year-old Dustin Boyd, a Calgary Flames prospect. "It just shows you what kind of player he was and that he will play until whenever he wants. He brings it every night and you can't say enough about that."

What sets Keane apart from the majority of his teammates at the all-star game is that many have NHL careers ahead of them.

Keane, who said he has not garnered much interest from NHL clubs in two seasons with the Moose (though the Maple Leafs were sniffing around before the 2005-06 season), knows his chances of getting back to the NHL are not great. But he holds out hope.

"It's going to be very difficult because it is not like the old days where teams could sign as many guys as they wanted," Keane said. "The salary cap comes into play. But I think everyone wants to make it to the next level."

And if it does not happen?

"The game has been good to me," Keane said. "People talk about the lockout and losing their jobs and being bitter, but the game gave me everything."


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