A Conversation With Keith Yandle of The Phoenix Coyotes
By Jack Kelly
(Full Disclosure: I have known Keith my whole life. Our fathers have been friends since they were kids and I actually remember when Keith was being groomed as a goalie. So, needless to say, I am biased as a life long friend and very proud of his success. Recently, Keith stopped by my house and we talked about the NHL lockout, the rumors of becoming a Bruin and a fun discussion about some old school high school hockey stars from Mass we both admired and played with)
Thoughts on the lockout:
Me- Will there be lockout?
Keith- Well, I don’t think we are starting on time and I don’t think that is breaking news. There is still hope and there are always ongoing discussions, but it doesn’t look good for getting the year started on time.
Me- Who is to blame?
Keith- Well, I wouldn’t say anyone is to blame per se. All we are looking for (the players) is a fair deal. We don’t begrudge the owners for wanting a profitable business model, but it can’t simply be put solely on the burden of the players. It would be a stupid assumption for anyone to believe that we as players, do not have a collective interest in the health of the game. Nobody wants the sport of hockey to succeed more than the players. After all, we are the one’s who grew up loving and playing this sport. So we want the NHL to succeed as almost as much as anyone.
Me- What are you doing right now to prepare for a possible lockout?
Keith- Well, just working out and training as if the season will start on time. All I can do is worry about myself in reference to my own training. I just have to stay disciplined and train as hard as I can and act as if there a season about to start. I need to always maintain an edge and the way to do that is to just get up everyday and work hard and hopefully, the labor situation will work itself out. I will control what I can.
Me- Any plans to play anywhere else?
Keith- None yet. Just staying local and continuing to train and work. I’ll cross that bridge, (if) or when I need to.
On The Rumors About Playing For The Bruins:
Me- So, a lot of people are saying you might be coming home to play for the Bruins. Any truth to this?
Keith- First off, I would like to say that I love playing for the Coyotes. Although we came up short last year, we had a good run and I was so proud of how hard our team competed. Also, the fans could not have been anymore supportive of us. I love the community in the greater Phoenix area and I have nothing but amazing things to say about the fans and the people who live there. I could not be happier playing for the Coyotes.
Me- So no truth to the rumors?
Keith- Look, one of the first things older players will tell you when you enter the league is this is a business. Sure it’s a fun business, but it is still a business. As far as my name being involved with trades or anything else involving the franchise as a whole, like moving or whatever, it is simply beyond my control. As far as the Bruins rumor, it is simply that, a rumor and again, beyond my personal control.
Me- But if the rumors were true, how would you feel about them if they came true?
Keith- Jack, just like any kid who has played hockey in Boston, who wouldn’t wanna play for the Bruins? If you played Basketball here, it would probably be the same if you got to play for the Celtics. So, ya playing for the Bruins would fulfill a childhood dream and if I ever played for Boston, it would be a nice story. But again, it is not something I desire or anything like that. I am truly happy playing for the Coyotes. I love the fans and the organization has always been very good to me.
Me- So you are happy in Phoenix?
Keith- Yes, very much so.
Me- So the rumors aren’t coming from you?
Keith- No, no no! It most likely comes from people speculating because I am from Boston so people just start talking. But it is all noise. Just a rumor and beyond my control.
Growing Up Playing Hockey In Boston:
Me- So, growing up playing hockey in Boston and becoming an NHL hockey player is and was a dream so many kids have had, including myself. What is it like to fulfill that dream?
Keith- Ya, it is pretty crazy isn’t it? I guess for me it is my reality, so I just wake up everyday and stay in the moment and continue to work hard. I am still the same person I have always been, but I know how lucky I am. I have a great life and I know it. I have a great family and now I have my own growing family. My wife keeps me grounded and as you know, having the type of family that me and you come from, it almost seems like that is all you need, even outside of hockey. So, I am lucky in more ways than just hockey, but ya, sometimes I have to pinch myself knowing I play in the NHL.
Me- Who were some of the high school players you always heard of growing up?
Keith- Well, you played with one at Matignon.
Me- T.C. Harris?
Keith- Ya, that kid was like a rockstar. Everybody heard about T.C. Harris. Even now, I run across people who play in the NHL who will ask about him. I am not sure what the full story is with him, but that kid was great. I was a lot younger than you guys (the time period we played) but that kid was a legend. Also, Nikko (Dimitrakos) played for you guys and he made it too.
Me- What about your brother Brian?
Keith- Well, my brother played at CM (Catholic Memorial) for a few years and going to those games had a big impact on me. And then when he played at UNH, I remember being so impressed that I had an older brother who was playing Division one hockey. I still am.
Me- Isn’t it crazy the history of great school hockey players from Mass?
Keith- Ya it is! People like Robbie Ftorek, who our father’s generation say was the greatest high school hockey player ever in Mass and Bobby Carpenter had the same type of reputation. There is just so many players to draw inspiration from Mass. The list is almost to long to mention all of the guys, but we could go on and on.
Me- Speaking of playing high school hockey and local guys, you are good friends with Chris Bourque, who just signed with the Bruins. Should Bruins fans be excited?
Keith- Yes! Chris will work out very well for Boston and Bruins fans will love him. He has grown as a person and a hockey player in the last few years and I think this was a great signing for Boston. As you said about high school, I have never seen someone so naturaly gifted as Chris, in terms of raw hockey talent. He was literally far and above anyone we played with in high school.
Me- What about the three local kids from Charlestown who just got drafted? (Matt Grzelcyk, Jimmy Vesey and Brendan Collier)
Keith- Ya, I have heard nothing but good things about them. It is such a great story and I have a lot of pride for them, because Charlestown is where my roots are.
Me- Any advice for them?
Keith- Just work hard, stay focused, avoid pitfalls and enjoy the ride.
After we wrapped our conversation I am left with some thoughts of my own. Keith is humble and is a great example of someone who has climbed the highest mountain in his profession and has maintained his humble nature. From a presonal standpoint, I would love nothing more than to see Keith wearing the black and gold. But however Keith’s career unfolds, I am proud of his accomplishments and his dedication to the Boston area, his friends and most importantly, his family.