|Date of Birth||March 22, 1940|
|Birthplace||Rouyn-Noranda, QC, Canada|
|Hall of Fame||1986|
David Michael Keon is a former professional hockey player who played eighteen professional seasons in the National Hockey League, including fifteen seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986, Keon is a four-time Stanley Cup champion, winning the championship with the Maple Leafs in 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967.
Keon began his hockey career by playing junior hockey in Toronto for the St. Michael's Buzzers of the Ontario Hockey Association's Metro Junior B league in 1956–57. In February 1957, he was named to the league's eastern all-star team and was picked by NHL scouts as the top prospect in the league. Keon was selected as the league's rookie of the year, finishing second in scoring, and his team won the league championship. He played some games that season for the Junior A St. Michael's Majors, and moved to that club full-time for the 1957–58 season. Keon played for the Majors through the end of the 1960 season, when he turned professional and joined the Sudbury Wolves of the Eastern Professional Hockey League for four playoff games. They would be the only games he would ever play in the minor leagues.
Keon joined the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League for the 1960–61 season, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie with 20 goals and 45 points in his first season. It was his first of six consecutive 20-goal seasons. In his second year in the NHL, Keon was named a second team all-star and won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as most gentlemanly player, taking only one minor penalty through the entire season. He repeated as Lady Byng winner in 1962–63, again taking only a single minor penalty all year.
He was the Maple Leafs' leading scorer in the 1963–64, 1966–67 and 1969–70 seasons, and the team's top goal scorer in 1970–71 and 1972–73. Keon was one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, and one of the best defensive forwards of his era. He was consistently matched up against the opponent's top center, and had developed a reputation for an ability to neutralize and defend some of the league's top scorers. In 1970–71, he scored eight shorthanded goals, setting an NHL record.
Keon won four Stanley Cups with the Maple Leafs, playing on the Cup-winning teams of 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64, and 1966–67. In the 1967 Cup final, he shut down Jean Beliveau, the star center of the Montreal Canadiens, in the final two games and was voted the most valuable player of the playoffs, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. Forty years later, he remains the only Leaf ever to have won the trophy named for the former owner of the Maple Leafs.
He was named team captain on October 31, 1969, succeeding George Armstrong, who was said to be retiring from hockey. Armstrong returned to the Leafs two weeks later and played for another two seasons, but Keon remained captain and would wear the patch on his jersey through the rest of his years with the Leafs.
Keon hoped to make Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series, but was coming off one of the worst years of his career, finishing the 1971–72 season with his lowest points-per-game average since his rookie year. He wasn't selected for Team Canada, but the Ottawa Nationals of the World Hockey Association made a strong effort to sign Keon, whom they had placed on their negotiation list earlier that year. Harold Ballard, who had become the Maple Leafs' majority owner in March 1972, said that Keon didn't provide the leadership the team needed during the previous season and was refusing to give Keon a large salary increase after a poor year. Keon signed a letter of intent with the Nationals, and received a $50,000 cheque from the team. However, the deal fell apart. Just before training camp. Keon signed a three-year deal with the Maple Leafs, and rebounded strongly in 1972–73, scoring 37 goals. On November 22, 1972 he scored his 297th goal as a Leaf, passing Armstrong and Frank Mahovlich to become the team's all-time leading goal scorer.
Early into the 1974–75 season, Ballard publicly blasted Keon, saying that the team wasn't getting strong leadership from its captain, and vowing never again to agree to a no-trade clause in a contract, as he had with Keon. When Keon's contract expired at the end of the season, Ballard made it clear that there was no place for him on the Maple Leafs. The Leafs believed they had some strong young prospects at center who needed more ice time, and Keon was again asking for a contract with a no-trade clause. The 35-year-old Keon was told he could make his own deal with another NHL team, but any club signing him would have been required to provide compensation to the Maple Leafs. Ballard set the compensation price so high that other teams were turned away from signing him, even though the Maple Leafs had no intention of keeping him. In effect, Ballard had blocked Keon from going to another NHL team.
In August of 1975, with the Leafs still controlling his NHL rights, Keon jumped to the World Hockey Association, signing a deal with the Minnesota Fighting Saints to a contract reportedly worth $300,000 over two seasons. The head coach of the Saints was Harry Neale, an old friend of Keon's. The team, and Keon, played well, but struggled badly financially. With 21 games left in the season, the team ceased operations. Keon was expected to return to the NHL, and wasn't included in the dispersal sale of Saints players to other WHA teams. The NHL's New York Islanders wanted Keon, but needed to negotiate a deal for his NHL rights with the Maple Leafs. Again, the Maple Leafs' asking price (said to have been a first-round draft pick) was too high, and a disappointed Keon signed with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers in March 1976.
The Fighting Saints were revived for the start of the WHA's 1976–77 season, and Keon was traded back to Minnesota. However, the team once again folded, this time permanently, half-way through the season (with Keon as its leading scorer). Keon was briefly the property of the Edmonton Oilers, who immediately traded him to the New England Whalers in January of 1977. He would remain with the team through the rest of his career. In the 1977–78 season, Keon was joined on the Whalers by Gordie Howe, the team's leading scorer, despite turning 50 before the end of the season. Keon returned to the NHL in 1979 when the renamed Hartford Whalers became one of four WHA teams to join the NHL. Bobby Hull joined the Whalers that season, with Keon, Howe, and Hull sometimes playing as a forward line. Howe and Hull retired at the end of the season, leaving Keon as the oldest player in the NHL. Keon played two more seasons with the Whalers before announcing his retirement on June 30, 1982 at age 42.
Throughout his NHL career, Keon received many awards and accolades for his strong play. In addition to being a four time Stanley Cup champion, Keon is also a time-time Lady Byng Memorial award winner, winning the award in 1962 and 1963. Keon also won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 1967, the last time the Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup. In terms of single-season successes, Keon was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team in 1962 and 1971, and played in the NHL All-Star Game a total of eight times, appearing in the 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, and 1973 games.
Following his retirement from hockey, Keon moved to Florida and worked in real estate for several years.
Bitter over his treatment by Ballard and the Maple Leafs, Keon refused for many years to have any relationship with the Toronto organization, even after Ballard's death and after the club changed ownership several times. Keon turned down several offers of reconciliation from the team, including an invitation to the closing ceremony for Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999 and a proposed ceremony to honour his number. Besides blaming Ballard, Keon insisted that he would not have anything to do with the club unless it changes its policy of only "honouring" numbers of former star players instead of retiring them (the Leafs will only retire the numbers of players who suffered a career-ending accident while a member of the team). Other Leaf players who clashed with Ballard's management did reconcile, most notably Keon's successor as club captain, Darryl Sittler, who accepted an invitation from general manager Cliff Fletcher to return as a consultant.
On March 22, 1991, with the Maple Leafs under new management after Ballard's death, Keon played on a team of Maple Leaf all-stars against their counterparts from the Montreal Canadiens in an old-timers game at Maple Leaf Gardens called Legends' Night in Canada. In January 2007, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Keon would attend a pre-game ceremony to honour its 1967 Stanley Cup winning team. Keon was one of several members of the 1967 team to appear on-ice at the Air Canada Centre before the Maple Leafs' game on February 17, 2007. This was the eightieth anniversary of the first game played by the Toronto franchise after being renamed the Maple Leafs in 1927. Keon was introduced to the crowd second last, just prior to 1967 captain George Armstrong, and received a long standing ovation.