Winnipeg’s Jackson Keane played for Team West at the World Under-17 Challenge in Nova Scotia and now he’s in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Addison Division final. He learned a lot about himself and the game of hockey this season. Now it’s on to a run to the MJHL championship.
Winnipeg Blues centre Jackson Keane does NOT have daddy issues. In fact, there probably has never been a teenaged hockey player who held his popular father in higher esteem.
Of course, when your dad is Mike Keane, three-time Stanley Cup champion, longtime Manitoba Moose captain and all-around good guy, it’s unlikely a young hockey player could possibly feel any different.
“Yeah, my dad’s my hero,” Jackson said matter-of-factly. “He’s just a guy everybody looks up to. I want to be just like him. He’s a guy everybody likes and respects and that’s something I want for myself someday. I mean, how could I not be proud of my dad?”
It’s been a pretty nice Manitoba Junior Hockey League rookie season for the 5-foot-8, 140-pound 16-year-old. He had 20 goals and 22 assists in 63 games and was named the MJHL’s Rookie of the Month for December, thanks to four goals and five assists in eight starts. Now his Blues have reached the Addison Division final after eliminating the Selkirk Steelers, the No. 1 team in the league, in five games in the Addison semifinal.
The fact that he just returned from the U-17 World Junior A Challenge in Cape Breton has made the season even sweeter. It’s also been fun to have one of his closest friends, his cousin Geordie Keane, in the Blues locker room with him this season.
“Yeah, my cousin is one of my best friends and we sit beside each other in the locker room,” Jackson said. “I love playing with him. He’ll always have my back. He’ll run around for me.”
Make no mistake, despite the fact Jackson is one of the smallest players on the ice every night and Geordie isn’t a whole lot bigger (he’s 5-foot-9, 160 pounds) neither one of them will back away from contact. Although, isn’t afraid to watch over his high-scoring cousin.
“We play a completely different game,” said Geordie, 17, who shared last year’s Triple A midget championship with Jackson. “Jackson pulls off some sick moves in practice, but I’ll block a lot more shots.
“Jackson was responsible for my first fight in the MJ. He went in late at the net and he gives the other goalie a couple of shots and then he lets his cousin come in a take care of the mess. But he has nothing to worry about. I’ll always have his back.”
Jackson has also experienced his first junior fight and he did surprisingly well. Still, Blues head coach Don MacGillivray would prefer that his little scorer and power play threat stayed out of the penalty box.
“Obviously, he knows how to score,” said Blues head coach Don MacGillivray. “He knows how to put the puck in the net.
“The most impressive thing about him is that he’s taken steps to improve his play away from the puck. It’s a weakness that all young players have and he’s really improved the way he plays without the puck. He doesn’t shy away from the physical part of the game, either. He has great bloodlines and a lot of talent.
“Give him credit, though, he’s carving his own niche.”
Jackson was born in Denver when his dad was the captain of the Colorado Avalanche. In fact, he was born just before Keane and the Avalanche were eliminated in the Conference finals by Detroit that year. Jackson started playing hockey in Denver when he was four and then moved to Winnipeg when he was Grade 1.
He played in the Tuxedo Lightning organization with Sir John Franklin and Varsity View and then played peewee and minor bantam with the Assiniboine Park Rangers, bantam with the Monarchs and one year of Triple A midget with the Winnipeg Wild.
He and his cousin Geordie won the provincial midget title together last season and this year, they occasionally play on the same line with the Blues. And it really is a family affair. While Jackson and Geordie sit beside each other in the locker room, Geordie’s dad Billy Keane, one of the top hockey instructors in the province, is Don MacGillivray’s assistant coach.
Of course, it isn’t a perfect situation for Jackson (nothing ever is). A student at St. Paul’s High School he doesn’t get a pass to leave school early for practice every day. He’s out of class with everybody else at 3:15 and then has to rush to the Iceplex for 3:30 practice. He’s often late and it’s annoying.
“My grades is school are OK,” said Jackson sheepishly. “I have such a tough schedule. I write nine exams over the next 10 days (starting Jan. 13). I’m going to have to manage my time well.”
There is little doubt about where Jackson wants to take the game of hockey. He’s totally committed. The only question about his future is whether he’ll go to the Western Hockey League or the NCAA. A load of NCAA schools are interested and when WHL scouts see Minnesota Duluth assistant coach Derek Plante (a former teammate of Mike’s in Dallas) hanging around with Jackson’s dad, you can understand why Canada’s big junior league is concerned that this gifted sniper might be headed south.
“I haven’t made any decision at all,” Jackson said. “No matter where I decide to play, my mom and dad will support me. I know that. Wherever I decide to go, it will to the place where I think I can improve the most and develop my game.
“There is no secret, I want to play in the NHL,” Jackson said, “Just like my dad.”