Keith was a hard-nosed winger and crowd favourite in Boston for almost a decade in the 1980's. He not only was tough but he could score as well. Keith was a working man's player who often had to do the "dirty work". He didn't mind it though and mixed it with solid and steady offensive production.
Keith grew up in Windsor and Essex, Ont. and showed promise early on in his hockey career. His two year older brother Bruce was also a good hockey prospect and eventually joined Keith in the NHL. Keith won the junior C title with his Essex team and was supposed to attend the University of Michigan but instead opted to play for the Peterborough Petes (OHA). There he helped Peterborough win the Memorial Cup in his third and last season (1978-79).
In July 1978 the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA signed him as an underage free agent. He eventually joined the Bulls team after the Memorial Cup final with the Petes. He immediately showed some toughness on the Bulls team as he picked up 17 Pim's in 5 games and added a goal as well. The WHA of course folded after that 1978-79 season and Keith was taken in the 1979 NHL entry draft by Boston. (57th overall). In 1979-80 he played for Binghamton Whalers (AHL) and Grand Rapid Owls (IHL) to gain some experience. As the 1980-81 season started Keith played for the Bruins farm team in Springfield (AHL).
His hard work and great attitude, as well as his fine start in Springfield (a team leading 30 points in 26 games) made the Bruins call him up on December 13,1980. Keith never looked back from that moment on, and never played another minor league game.
Keith was put on a line together with another rookie, Steve Kasper and veteran Wayne Cashman. The line shined on many nights and Keith scored a respectable 25 points (12+13) in 47 games, but the most eye popping stats was his 172 Pim's in those 47 games. He not only set a rookie team record for most penalty minutes in a season but he also set a team mark for most penalty minutes in one game when he collected 43 against Minnesota on February 26,1981.
The Bruins fans loved this kid. He continued to play solid two-way hockey on the checking line with Kasper and Cashman the following season. Keith had 44 points (23+21) and amongst other things had the second longest point streak (7 games) on the club that 1981-82 season. The highlight during season was when Keith set up his brother Bruce for a goal on February 24, 1982 vs Hartford. It was the first time they had combined on a scoring play since they were teammates on their hometown junior C team in Essex.
In 1982-83 Keith saw a lot more ice time due to the fact that his linemate Steve Kasper got injured. Keith was moved up from the checking line to a more offensive one and Keith responded with 35 goals and 74 points as the teams third best scorer. His fine offensive production was a welcomed addition. Keith won the prestigious "Gallery Gods offensive player of the year award", given by the most respected Garden fans.
Keith continued to cement his reputation as one of the best two-way players in the NHL and played in the same mold as Wayne Cashman. A knee injury forced him to miss 16 games in 1983-84 and he scored 52 points in 63 games. He rebounded with a 32 goal and 70 point season the following campaign and won the Seventh Player Award as the Bruins player of the year. He also had a team high +31 rating. The 1985-86 season was Keith's most successful from an offensive standpoint. He had a career high 38 goals, 46 assists and 84 points to lead the entire Bruins team and finished 24th overall in the Art Ross scoring race.
Keith's fearless style of hockey caught up a little with him as he sustained nagging injuries for the rest of his career. He had shoulder, rib, abdominal and hand injuries among other things. His production fell to 52, 43 and 33 points.
His best days were over and Keith, who was the longest serving member of the Bruins only behind Ray Bourque, signed as a free agent by Los Angeles on June 28, 1989. Keith saw limited ice time on a checking line as a King and only scored 17 points in 55 games. Hockey wasn't fun anymore and at 31 Keith was ready to retire.
It wasn't a spectacular career, but it sure was a very solid one, and an honest and hardworking one. On October 16, 1999 Keith was inducted into the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame.
That of course made Keith very proud
"When I first heard about it, I was grateful to be thought of," Keith said. "I knew there weren't that many people in it. That people think you had an impact on your own community, which they haven't forgotten, is quite an honour. I've even forgotten a lot of stuff from my playing days."
Maybe so, but Bruins and NHL fans remember Keith's gritty and tough play.
Keith's fondest memories revolved around his Bruins' teammates rather than any individual accomplishments.
"It's the dressing room stuff more than the games I remember," said Keith in 1999. "The games were serious business with the Bruins' work ethic. At practice, we used to relax and have fun."
One of Keith's enduring memories came during the NHL semifinals against New Jersey in the spring of 1988. Bruins coach Terry O' Reilly was irate over the officiating in a Game 6 mugging by the Devils that sent the series back to Boston.
"There was a four-foot-by-eight-foot chalkboard in our dressing room that he knocked over and was jumping up and down on," Keith said. "He was screaming that we were going to kick the living daylights out of them in Game 7. "He finally stormed out of the room. We're thinking, 'He's nuts.' We have a chance at the finals. We didn't want to blow it by getting into brawls.
"Thirty seconds later, Terry comes back in and tells us to disregard everything he just said and leaves again. As soon as he was out the door, the whole place burst out laughing. "We won the next game to reach the finals, but we got swept by Edmonton. That was both my professional highlight and lowlight all in two weeks."
Ten years after Keith retired he wasn't too thrilled over the NHL.
"The game has changed because of the all the money," he said. "Guys go home to check their investments instead of socializing together. I keep in touch with Ray Bourque and he talks about writing million dollar cheques. Thinking about what my salary would be now would be depressing, so I don't do it."
Keith would sure be more deserving of the high salaries than most of the spoiled "floating" players today.