As tradition of boos in Vancouver lives on, so does Duncan Keith’s shatterproof career

Eight years after his elbow on Daniel Sedin, Keith — still the Hawks’ top defenseman nearing his 37th birthday — remains Canucks fans’ favorite enemy.

SHARE As tradition of boos in Vancouver lives on, so does Duncan Keith’s shatterproof career
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Duncan Keith, despite living in British Columbia during the offseasons, doesn’t share much love with the Canucks.

AP Photos

VANCOUVER, British Columbia —The Canucks can’t keep Duncan Keith out of their minds.

The tradition of deafening boos for Keith in Vancouver —every time he touches the puck, every time he appears on the scoreboard, every time his name is mentioned —is one of the most simultaneously absurd and impressive rituals in hockey.

Eleven years since the first playoff series between the Canucks and Keith’s Blackhawks, nine years since the most recent series and eight years since Keith’s dirty (but probably overblown) elbow to Daniel Sedin’s face during a regular season game in Chicago, the veteran Hawks defenseman remains public enemy No. 1 inside Rogers Arena.

Making the hatred most ironic is that Keith actually spends his summers in Penticton, British Columbia, a mere four-hour drive east from Vancouver.

“It’s kind of weird, being from British Columbia, you’re getting booed in your own province, but it is what it is,” Keith said pregame Wednesday, chuckling at the thought. “I always enjoy coming back here playing, and I have a lot of friends and family are either at the game or watching on TV. Having said that...whenever we’re playing here, it’s everything for the Blackhawks obviously.”

For other Hawks, the response Keith receives in this city has become something of a joke.

Before Patrick Kane masqueraded around as the jovial villain of this year’s NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis, the first hint of the inescapable boos that would dominate his weekend —at a pre-All Star weekend media availability — recalled one certain memory.

“Duncs gets booed in Vancouver, which is always pretty funny to see him up his game a little bit and hold onto the puck as well,” Kane said that day.

Winning three Stanley Cups requires upsetting some —make that most — teams and fan bases, and all the longstanding members of the Hawks’ core are used to occasional booing.

Coach Jeremy Colliton, who has only begun to witness this universal animosity in the past two seasons, sees that there’s clearly an underlying meaning to it all.

“It means they’ve played in some big games over the years and been pretty effective players,” Colliton said Wednesday. “They might boo him, but there’s a respect there, and it says a lot about the player.”

The fact the booing has lasted this long and this intensely definitely implies respect.After all, the fact that Keith — who turns 37 in July — has also lasted this long is even more impressive than Canucks fans’ resilient memories.

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Much of the Canucks’ animosity towards Keith stems from a 2012 game in Chicago.

Tom Cruze/Sun-Times file photo

Keith remains the Hawks’ far-and-away biggest minutes eater, averaging nearly 24 per game, while also mentoring first-pairing partner Adam Boqvist and trying to cover for the shaky Hawks’ inevitable breakdowns.

“[It’s] a lot of hard minutes, but I feel good. I put the work in off the ice to be able to do that,” he said. “This year, it’s been a defensive role for myself, and making sure that I’m defensively there for mistakes that happen and shutting down the other team as best as I can.”

Even the Sedin twins, whose No. 22 and No. 33 sweaters were retired in a long, emotional ceremony before Wednesday’s game — and yes, this game and opponent were intentionally chosen by the Canucks —made sure to salute the Hawks as valiant opponents over the decades.

For the name-drops of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook, there was silence. But for Keith, on cue, there was savage roar.

It was the first of many throughout the night. But Keith didn’t mind.

“I don’t think you really do anything differently,” he said. “At the end of the day, the boosdefinitely don’t bother me.”

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