Keane hangs 'em up

Mike Keane, with son Jackson, 12, during the Manitoba Moose Super Skills Competition, wants to...

Mike Keane, with son Jackson, 12, during the Manitoba Moose Super Skills Competition, wants to spend more time with his family. (MARCEL CRETAIN/Winnipeg Sun files)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Mike Keane is hanging up the blades, but it's not because he lost his passion for the sport he loves.

Although he declined an interview request on Monday night, the three-time Stanley Cup winner confirmed to The Sun that he was informed he won’t be asked back for a sixth season with the Manitoba Moose.

Keane, who turned 43 in May, had been training to play another season for his hometown team in Winnipeg but he found out Monday that he’s not in the plans for 2010-11.

Rather than pursue a coaching job or try to catch on elsewhere, Keane plans on spending more time with his family, including wife Tammy, son Jackson and daughter Olivia.

Keane doesn’t plan on holding a press conference to announce his retirement either — that’s not his style — and he’s not planning to speak about the subject to the media anytime soon.

The Moose also declined comment but are expected to make general manager Craig Heisinger available to answer questions on Tuesday.

The fact the Moose aren’t bringing Keane back is a tad confusing, considering the captain is coming off his best statistical season (nine goals, 31 points in 75 games) since returning to the American Hockey League in 2005-06.

But at his year-end meeting with reporters, Heisinger raised eyebrows when he responded to a question about Keane’s future with the club by saying it would be up to the club and not Keane.

Going into previous off-seasons, Heisinger had always deferred to Keane, going so far to say that the best chance the Moose had to win a championship was when Keane was still in the lineup.

What’s changed?

One theory out there suggests the parent club, the Vancouver Canucks, didn’t want to have Keane back for another season but others believe the Moose just felt it was time to move on.

Regardless of the reason, there’s an awfully big void to fill in the Moose locker-room this fall.

“I’m baffled a little bit that you wouldn’t want that guy around on a regular basis or to have him in your lineup,” said former Moose forward Lee Goren. “When you think of Keaner, you think of longevity. You watch him in his first year until now and he’s still the same player and he still does the same things. He did it in the AHL and he did it in the NHL. He was the hardest working guy in the minors still, at 43. He’s one of the most amazing leaders I’ve ever played with. He held everybody accountable. The things that he’s done and the intangibles he has are amazing. ”

In 16 NHL seasons, Keane (who was undrafted but signed as a free agent by the Montreal Canadiens) appeared in 1,161 regular season games and another 220 during the Stanley Cup playoffs and was always known as a gritty player who came up big when the stakes were high.

When news on Keane’s imminent retirement began to spread on Monday, the tributes were coming in fast and furious.

“Keaner is a legend in Manitoba, he’s done it all,” said Washington Capitals forward Eric Fehr. “He’s won (Stanley) Cups with three different teams and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met. It’s very rare to see a guy work as hard as he does. You can tell by the way that he plays that he enjoys winning.”

“Kudos to him having won three Stanley Cups and coming back and playing for the Moose for his home team, it was pretty neat to see,” added Columbus Blue Jackets forward Andrew Murray. “He was one of those guys I had looked up to and had watched on TV. To play that long you have to have a good work ethic and skating with him in the summer, you can see that right away. He’s one of those guys that you would love to have on your team. He sets the tone for the rest of the guys.”

Keane’s impact on the Moose franchise and the community he lives in was far-reaching.

“First of all, he’s the consummate team player and he makes everyone around him better,” said Brad Berry, a former Moose assistant coach who was recently named assistant coach of the Blue Jackets. “He’s a student of the game and he hates to lose. He plays the way it should be and had the ultimate passion. He brings instant credibility. He brought out the best in everybody to play hard every night because that’s the way he played.

“The game has been good to him, but also he’s been good to the game. I can’t think of how many guys he’s made an impact on, not only players but coaches. I know he made an impact on me when I was here.”


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