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WOONSOCKET â€“ The Keith Carney who was enshrined into Mount St. Charlesâ€™ Athletic Hall of Fame last Friday night was the picture of serenity â€“ suggesting that after 17 years in the NHL, retirement agrees with him.
Still sporting the same perfectly combed hair that made Carney recognizable when he wasnâ€™t wearing a helmet, the 44-year-old Pawtucket native did admit there are times when he misses lacing up the skates for competition. Heâ€™s now six years into the retirement phase of his life, but judging by the entourage that accompanied him to Saviniâ€™s Restaurant, his life after hockey has remained fulfilling.
Carney walked up the stairs and into the banquet room at Saviniâ€™s with his wife Amy, three triplet sons Kade, Aidan and Cole, and daughter Morgan. His parents, Jack and Dolores, also accompanied him. The evening served as a fitting capper to a week that also saw the ex-Mountie get inducted into the R.I. Interscholastic League Hall of Fame.
â€śYou miss the competition. Itâ€™s hard when you stop and thatâ€™s all youâ€™ve done for 17 years, but itâ€™s also nice to have that family time,â€ť Carney said while receiving well wishes and handshakes from MSC supporters, some of whom he hadnâ€™t crossed paths with in quite some time. â€śBeing home to take the kids to school and pick them up â€¦ normal dad stuff,â€ť he said.
When Carney retired in 2008 â€“ after logging 1,018 NHL games for six different franchises â€“ the triplets had just turned seven years old, and Morgan was five. They were already settled in Arizona, an area of the country that Amy and Keith fell in love with when they spent four years with the Phoenix Coyotes (1997-2001).
In a classic example of the apple not falling far from the tree, two of the triplets play hockey. The Carney boys are also baseball players.
â€śHopefully they continue to build that passion and love for (hockey),â€ť Carney said.
Trips back to Carneyâ€™s hometown donâ€™t happen very often. This was his first visit to Rhode Island with the entire clan in tow in nearly three years, and it meant a stay at his parentâ€™s house in Pawtucket. The arrangements may have been cramped, but you wonâ€™t find Carney complaining.
â€śItâ€™s always nice to come back and see with my family,â€ť said a smiling Carney. â€śWe also got the chance to visit my brothers and their kids [Keith is the youngest of Jack and Doloresâ€™ four sons].â€ť
Carney has been able to visit his folks on his own thanks to his affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks. His specific title is a player development coach/pro scout, which sees the longtime defenseman mentoring the next generation of Chicago icemen.
â€śIâ€™ll pop in (to see the parents) if Iâ€™m in Boston or Providence College,â€ť said Carney, now in his third year in his current role. â€śItâ€™s great being involved with an organization again and working with the younger guys. If I can give them some guidance that helps them develop quicker â€¦ everyoneâ€™s goal is to play in the National Hockey League. Itâ€™s nice that Iâ€™m in a position to pass something along. Even though Iâ€™m not playing, you still enjoy the ride because you know what these guys are going through.â€ť
Carneyâ€™s travel log to various college and junior hockey rinks around the country calls for him to spend weekends during the winter months away from Amy and the kids.
â€śThe one thing youâ€™re happy to be done with when you retire is the traveling aspect. This is a different kind of travel because youâ€™re on your own schedule. Itâ€™s not a grind, but itâ€™s still time away from the family,â€ť he said. â€śThis is my quiet time.â€ť
How Carney ended up taking a job with the Blackhawks is a story woven in the roots he put down as both a professional and his personal life. He played five years in the Windy City (1993-98).
â€śAll of the stops have been special in their own way, but Chicago is definitely the best,â€ť Carney said. â€śA lot happened while I was there. I met my wife and got married there. Thatâ€™s where I became a fulltime NHL player. I actually scored my first NHL goal (at the old Chicago Stadium) but I was playing for Buffalo.â€ť
Carneyâ€™s best chance at the Stanley Cup came in 2003 while playing for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as they reached the Cup Finals. The Ducks fought back from series deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 before falling to the eventual champion New Jersey Devils in seven grueling games.
Some of the pain from that near-Cup experience of 11 years ago subsided when the Blackhawks captured the top prize last June. Carney wasnâ€™t forgotten as the front office presented him with a championship ring.
â€śIt was at the Boston Bruinsâ€™ expense,â€ť quipped Mount St. Charles Athletic Director Richard Lawrence.
Said Carney, â€śTo say youâ€™re part of a great organization even though you didnâ€™t have a lot to do with it â€“ or get beat up over it â€“ itâ€™s nice to finally have a ring. I was close that one time.â€ť
The new lease on Carneyâ€™s hockey life has him intrigued at what could happen down the road once his kids become older. As a player who rarely made mistakes (his career plus/minus is an outstanding plus-164) and demonstrated leadership qualities, he would like to one day try his hand at coaching.
â€śI would like to get more involved. Maybe with the front office, but I always thought I would try coach,â€ť said Carney. â€śItâ€™s a big commitment, but maybe one day Iâ€™ll be able to do that. I donâ€™t want to do it right now. The boys are turning 13 in September and my daughter just turned 11. These next few years are important to be home still.â€ť
As far as the reason he was at Saviniâ€™s, Carney says he was deeply honored to be going into the athletic wing of his high schoolâ€™s alma mater the same night as his head coach at MSC, Bill Belisle.
â€śI was telling my parents that itâ€™s amazing that Coach Belisle is going in now. Heâ€™s a legend and you would think he would be the first and only Mount hall of famer at this point,â€ť said Carney, who suited up for the Mounties from 1985-88. â€śA lot of my success started at Mount St. Charles and I learned how to play as a team and work hard for something from him. Those life lessons carried me throughout my career.â€ť
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