Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith teaching Adam Boqvist how to physically endure NHL career

The 36-year-old defenseman, renowned for his work ethic and durability, is teaching his 19-year-old counterpart the workout skills needed to last just as long.

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Duncan Keith (right) and Adam Boqvist have been mentor and mentee since autumn.

Duncan Keith (right) and Adam Boqvist have been mentor and mentee since autumn.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Adam Boqvist had just turned 5 when Duncan Keith broke into the NHL.

Fifteen seasons later, Keith is still anchoring the Blackhawks’ first defensive pairing — with Boqvist, 19, as his partner.

Keith, 36, hopes to pass on to Boqvist — along with Kirby Dach and the Hawks’ other youngsters — the habits that have allowed him to maintain his performance over 1,253 games.

“There’s young, and there’s really young,” Keith said last week. “You can tell they’re hanging off of some of the things you’re saying to them. So I try to be a good influence.”

What has allowed Keith to maintain his excellence is not much of a secret. His obsession with wellness and self-care is something the rest of the Hawks are well aware of.

“He looks like a professional, the way he keeps his body in shape and the way he wants to take care of himself, the way he researches information just to gain that competitive edge,” Patrick Kane said. “It might be something that we’re used to. But for those guys coming in for their first year, that can help them take the next step, too.”

“I’ll put my conditioning up against anybody,” Keith said. “It is a lot of hard minutes, but I feel good. I put the work in off the ice to be able to do that.”

Boqvist has spent more than 70 percent of his ice time alongside Keith through his first 32 games, so he certainly has been exposed to the elder’s advice. And it has changed his habits.

He used to “just lie in bed all day” during his days off in junior hockey. Now he still takes regular naps — “I feel good when I wake up from them,” he said Tuesday, echoing the rest of the human population — but he also makes sure to move.

After landing in Chicago well after midnight Sunday, the Hawks took Monday off. But Boqvist went to Fifth Third Arena to practice shooting, ride a bike for 30 minutes and work out with strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman.

That came after he was a healthy scratch — for only the second time — Sunday in Winnipeg, with coach Jeremy Colliton saying he hadn’t “been as good lately.” Boqvist tried to look at it positively.

“You still want to play and help the team win, but I don’t think it was bad for me to have another day off,” he said. “It’s going to help me along the way, get some more rest.”

The length of the season and the frequency of games have indeed been challenges.

Boqvist played only 54 games last season with the London Knights and even fewer previously in Sweden. Before the All-Star break, he felt the fatigue catching up to him.

But then suddenly, Keith would be in his ear, passing along guidance.

“Sometimes you get a little bit tired during games, but you’ve got to be mentally strong and think you’re not tired,” Boqvist said. “That’s the biggest thing he’s taught me.”

Even when the game ends, there’s still no time to be tired: Boqvist also has learned the importance of postgame workouts from Keith.

So far, he seems to be tackling it enthusiastically. But he might not know what awaits him, if Keith has any say in the matter, this offseason.

“It just starts with your commitment to your conditioning in the summer, to build a foundation for your body,” Keith said. “You see guys, they don’t really start that until later in their careers, and by the time they’re 30, it really catches up with them.”

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