This was originally written for the Dartmouth men's hockey program
used for this past weekend's games against Yale and Brown at Thompson Arena.
By Pat Salvas
Mike Keenan lined up to take the faceoff at 7 p.m. last Saturday night at Brown's Meehan Auditorium knowing full well he wouldn't win. All the eyes in the rink at that moment were focused on the South Weymouth, Mass., native at center ice.
A defenseman, Keenan is not accustomed to lining up to take the draw at center ice. Across from him was Brown's defenseman Dennis Robertson, another player used to a different view of the puck drop.
As the puck hit the ice, Keenan's stick remained steady, not moving to try and win it back to a teammate. Instead, Robertson slowly and with a sense of purpose extended his stick and pulled the puck back, reached down and picked it up with his hand and passed it off to Brown's new President on hand for the ceremonial faceoff.
The visiting player that night, losing the draw was a predetermined conclusion for Keenan. Such is the role of a team's captain.
Just the sixth player in Dartmouth men's hockey 107-year history to wear the captain's 'C' over two seasons, Keenan has clearly established himself as a true leader.
His selection of captain as a junior through a voting process by his teammates and peers speaks highly enough of his character and standing in the locker room. However, when taking into account that the Big Green had a 10-member senior class in 2011-12 says even more about his selection.
"It's a real honor. We had 10 seniors and to be captain last year was a big honor for me personally," Keenan said. "Those guys, the class above me, made it really easy for me to take on that role. There was never any push back; they were incredibly supportive."
Knowing that you will be the team's leader well in advance made for early connections with new players coming into the fold that will make up more than a third of the upcoming roster.
"I made sure I called all the freshmen before they got here to check in and see how they were doing," he remarked about his 10 newest teammates. "You want to know that they're keeping up with offseason stuff to be ready. I also wanted to let them know I could help if they had any questions because I understood this period can be an overwhelming one for young guys."
It's more than his unquestioned leadership skills on and off the ice that make Keenan a valuable asset to this team. His steady, workman-like play in games doesn't go unnoticed, even if he lacks the point totals of some of his ECAC Hockey defensive counterparts.
A solid player in his own end, Keenan has become a top penalty killer and can jump up in the play to contribute to the talented forwards' effort in the offensive zone.
That work ethic on the ice may come from an unmatched desire to play. Keenan missed much of his freshman season with an injury, playing just seven games. Since coming back, the Catholic Memorial product has not missed any of the team's 69 regular season and postseason contests.
"Our class has been hampered with so many injuries since getting here. Dustin (Walsh) last year, Mark (Goggin) was out two years ago, Jason (Bourgea) breaking his hand and myself a few years back. We feel a sense of urgency with this being our last go-around because there is no next year for us."
Two games into his final year in a Dartmouth uniform and his team with an early Ivy Shootout title under its belt, Keenan is feeling good about 2012-13, regardless of what the pundits said during the preseason.
"There's a level of excitement in the locker room this year already that I haven't seen in the past. We're a young team, and no one knows what to expect. We're such a tight league that no one really can know what's going to happen.
"We don't put a whole lot of stock in looking at where we're picked by people who've seen us twice in a year. We just put our heads down and go to work."