Defenseman started skating for the Orland Park Vikings, then switched to the Chicago Mission
By Ross Forman – The Chicago Wolves lost 3-1 to the host Grand Rapids Griffins on May 8th, but, after the loss, Joey Keane heard the news every hockey player dreams about.
He was headed to the National Hockey League.
The next day, Keane and his family drove from the Chicago area to Nashville, where he joined the Carolina Hurricanes for the team’s last regular-season game – against the host Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
“It was a great experience. I was grateful for the opportunity and thankful that my family was able to be there. It was awesome, a dream come true,” said Keane, who turned 22 on July 2.
The right-handed-shooting defenseman was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2018, the 88th overall pick. He played 24 games for the Wolves this season.
“It’s a huge moment (getting to debut in the NHL), but still, you’re trying to stay calm, think of it as not too big of a deal because you want to play well. You have to balance your emotions, but, at the same time, you want to take it all in.”
NASHVILLE, TN – MAY 10: Joey Keane #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on May 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Hurricanes fell 5-0 in Keane’s debut, though he skated about 20 minutes over 24 shifts.
“Aside from the score, it was a great experience,” Keane said. “Taking that first lap during warmups was something I’ll always remember.
“I really enjoyed the game.”
Keane skated briefly for the Hurricanes’ taxi squad during the playoffs, which “was a great experience, one that I’ll never forget,” he said.
When Carolina was eliminated from the playoffs, he returned home – to Homer Glen, where his summer has been filled with training, skating (mostly in Chicago and Orland Park) and a couple of lake days too, he said, laughing.
Keane skated for the Chicago Mission for seven seasons and before that, he played for the Orland Park Vikings youth hockey program.
“I was really fortunate to have been on some good Mission teams. We won titles, championships and more, including a National Championship,” as a peewee major, he said.
Keane was coached at the Mission by Gino Cavallini and Anders Sorenson, among others.
Photo courtesy of Joey Keane
The Mission was a great experience, especially the national championship season.
“We had a powerhouse team and were expecting to win it,” said Keane, who recalled that the Mission needed an overtime game-winning goal to celebrate.
Winning the national championship, he added, “was something you dream about; it was awesome.”
Keane played for the Vikings for four seasons before joining the Mission, highlighted by a trip to Niagara Falls for games.
“I remember winning,” with the Vikings, he said. “We were always good. It was a lot of fun.”
Keane’s path to the pros also has included time playing for Dubuque in the USHL, as well as London, Barrie, Hartford, and Charlotte.
Photo courtesy of Joey Keane
Ironically, before skating for the Chicago Wolves, he attended Wolves games during a fieldtrip in second grade.
Keane attended Lockport High School for two years, then was schooled in Dubuque and Barrie before ultimately graduating from Chicago’s Bloom High School.
“Joey was a puck-moving defenseman who saw the ice well, plays hard in the corners and harder in front of the net,” said Cavallini, hockey director for the Mission – and Keane’s coach for three or four seasons.
“Early on, as a peewee, you could see that he could play; he was a tough kid. There was no one he was going to back down from, that’s for sure.
“He put the work in, working hard in season and out of season. There wasn’t a game that he didn’t show up,” to play.
Now he’s ready to play full-time at the highest level.