Dave Keon, known as one of the greatest two-way centres in the history of the game, was an amazing athlete who spent 22 seasons in professional hockey. He appeared in an impressive total of 1,725 regular season and playoff games in both the WHA and the NHL, and in all that time he picked up only 151 penalty minutes!|
Keon hit the Garden ice in 1960 without spending a minute in the minors - a rare feat in those days as boss Punch Imlach was usually dead set against using unpracticed players on his veteran laden team. All eyes were focused on the speedy youngster to see if he could handle the rough stuff. By season's end he had 20 goals, a considerable sum in those days, and was named the Calder Trophy winner as the best rookie in the league that year.|
Keon was a sparkplug who ignited the Maple Leafs. The following season saw Keon scored 61 points and was named to the Second All Star team in just his second year. More importantly, he began proving himself where all of the game's greats are made or broken - in the Stanley Cup playoffs Keon helped the Leafs capture their first Stanley Cup championship in 11 seasons.
The Leafs would three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions. In 1963 Keon's 7 goals and 12 points paced the Leafs. In 1964, Keon repeated a team leading 7 goals, including all three of the team's goals in the final game in the semi-final against Montreal. He then turned his attention to shutting down the Detroit Red Wings.
In a surprise championship, the Leafs captured their 4th Cup of the decade in 1967. Keon's relentless checking and premier faceoff abilities were first and foremost, and he was rewarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league's most valuable playoff performer.
Shortly after the 1967 championship, the Leafs headed into transition. The team aged into decline, and a new man rose to power in Toronto in 1971 - Harold Ballard.
Ballard's clashes with players, coaches, media - pretty much everybody and anybody - are as legendary as they are infamous. Perhaps no player's battle with Ballard went as deep and long lasting as Keon's.
Keon was named as captain in 1969, but when Ballard arrived he didn't support Keon as the captain of his hockey team. Keon undoubtedly had an abrasive personality, but was extremely popular with the fans, and was understood by his teammates. As their public battles continued, the Leafs fortunes under Keon's captaincy went downward. Keon himself continued to excel, but he didn't have the supporting cast to help him.
Ballard could have traded away Keon (one common rumor had the New York Islanders very interested) but he refused by asking for the moon and the stars in return. Ballard wanted Keon right out of the NHL and when his contract was up in 1975 he left Keon with little choice but to sign with the World Hockey Association - something Keon remained bitter about years after Ballard's death.
Keon brought his intelligent game to the WHA where he played for Minnesota, Indianapolis and New England over the next four seasons before making his triumphant return to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, who merged with the NHL once the WHA collapsed.
Keon continued to play until his retirement at the conclusion of the 1981-82 season.
Keon never forgot or forgave Harold Ballard for the way he was treated. Keon felt disrespected and unappreciated in the often public and sometimes deeply personal verbal assault Ballard waged. Keon refused to take part in any Maple Leaf functions for years after his retirement, despite his status as one of the most popular Leaf players of all time among fans.
Once Ballard passed on, the new Maple Leaf regime and particularly Cliff Fletcher looked to repair old wounds with many former players, including Keon. Although the relationship has never been fully repaired with the stubborn Keon, there has been a modest thaw in the cold war.
Hopefully one day Keon will be able to return to Toronto and perhaps participate in some sort of thank you ceremony that Keon deserves, and the fans desire.
DAVE KEON - BIOGRAPHY
Ask Dave Keon what a penalty box is and he might have a tough time telling you.
Sound strange? If you have followed the centerman's career then you know that the diminutive Keon, he stood only 5'9" and weighed a paltry 165 pounds, was not just a great hockey player, but he was one of the game's cleanest and most gentlemanly players. In fact, in 1597 combined NHL and WHA regular season contests, Keon only accumulated 137 minutes of penalties and six times he played an entire season with totaling only two penalty minutes.
After a year of "B" hockey, Keon played three full seasons and a smattering of a fourth for the St. Michael's Majors of the Ontario Hockey Association. It was with the Majors, a team that was always scouted thoroughly by the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, that Keon found his niche in the game. While showing promise as a goal scorer and playmaker, Keon was never the strongest or biggest player on the ice. Keon worked on developing his skating, puck handling, and checking skills and would soon develop into one of the NHL's best defensive forwards.
When Keon finally earned a spot on the Maple Leafs in the 1960-61 season, the forward posted an impressive 20 goals and 25 assists over the course of 70 games en route to winning the Calder Trophy as the league's standout rookie. Most impressive though about his rookie season was his ability to play at such a high level while only posting six penalty minutes for the year. Avoiding the penalty box would become a regular occurrence throughout Keon's career.
The only way Keon could have topped his rookie season was to win the Stanley Cup. And indeed he and his Maple Leafs not only won the Cup during Keon's sophomore season, but also in the next two years to follow. Keon had established himself during this three-year "championship" period as a legitimate 20-goal and 60-point player.
During the 1961-62 campaign, Keon played in 64 contests and managed to accumulate a scant two minutes of penalties. Keon repeated the feat the following season, this time participating in 68 games. It is no surprise that Keon won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play at a high skill level during both of those seasons.
Keon would help lead his Toronto Maple Leafs to a fourth Stanley Cup championship during the 1966-67 season. Keon, a 52-point scorer during the regular season, managed just three goals and five assists during the postseason, but his excellent defensive play and penalty killing earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason's most valuable player. Many who remember that Maple Leafs-Canadiens finals cite Keon, who notched just a goal and assist in the series, as being the reason why Toronto was able to secure the Cup that year.
Keon played with the Maple Leafs through the 1974-75 campaign, but while he maintained a high level of play, Toronto suffered through a couple of lean years. Still, Keon reached his highest goal scoring totals of his career, notching at least 32 goals on three separate occasions including a 38-goal outburst in the 1970-71 season. Keon's 38-goal season came just one year after succeeding George Armstrong as Captain of the Maple Leafs.
Keon played 15 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs but then jumped to the upstart World Hockey Association. Keon spent time with the Minnesota Fighting Saints and the Indianapolis Racers before finding a home in Hartford with the New England Whalers. As a Whaler, Keon twice won the Paul Daneau Trophy, which was the WHA's equivalent of the Lady Byng Trophy. When the WHA ceased operations, Keon remained with the Whalers when they joined the NHL in the 1979-80 season and played his last three seasons as a professional in Hartford.
Keon certainly enjoyed a professional career that any player could look back on and be
proud of. In 1296 NHL regular season contests, Keon notched 396 goals and amassed 590
assists. It was no surprise to anyone that Dave Keon was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of
Fame in 1986.
KEON MISSES OUT ON FOUR MORE CUPS !!In 1980, the New York Islanders sought to sign Keon as the final piece of their soon-to-be dynasty. But Toronto still owned Keon's NHL rights and Ballard again killed the deal. The Islanders acquired Butch Goring instead, won four Cups in a row, and Keon finished his career in relative obscurity in the WHA and for three seasons with the Hartford Whalers after the merger.
Where It All Went WrongSports fans love to reminisce over the days where it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
No other fans weave themselves into the tapestry of their team like Maple Leafs fans , who regard these players as sons, nephews, brothers. They wrote in about the ugly Harold Ballard days, which saw the trades of fan favorites like Dave Keon, Lanny McDonald, Darryl Sittler, and Russ Courtnall; not to mention non-Ballard dispatching of Frank Mahovlich in 1968 and Wendel Clark in 1994.