Why the Seattle Kraken’s Chanel Keenan is exactly what hockey needs

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here’s a phrase Keenan turns to often when asked about her earliest memories of hockey — one that, for those familiar, captures all you need to know. “I would call myself a certified rink rat,” she says. “Growing up, I was around my brothers who were playing when we were younger. … They’re older than me, so I had to go to all their practices and scrimmages, all the tournaments.”

In Dorchester, Mass., that rink-rat status wasn’t necessarily a choice, just a part of life. Brothers Sam and Chris were suiting up for Dorchester Youth Hockey at the time, the same organization that helped mold local legends Jimmy and Kevin Hayes. Keenan, who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta and has utilized a power wheelchair since she was three, spent those familiar hours at the rink doing laps around the concourse with all the other young siblings. Had you caught up with her to ask during those pre-teen years, a life in hockey would’ve seemed far from her ideal plan. If anything, the hours on the road to and from games cooped up with the stench of sweaty equipment had her going in the other direction.

It was around 12 years old that things changed, that her gaze began lingering longer and longer when hockey came on the TV. In the end, she was pulled in by same thing that tended to snare many a kid around those parts: the glory of that black-and-gold spoked “B.” Before long, she was watching Bruins games regularly, getting invested in the names that graced their jerseys, structuring her homework schedule so she wouldn’t miss a single tilt. In that heyday of Boston sports, it didn’t take long for the dedication to pay off — the next year, 2011, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. “That was kind of a good time to start paying attention to hockey,” she says with a laugh. Despite the banners and parades, the rest of the family’s interest in the sport waned. But for the household’s youngest, it only grew, until it became something more. Now, a decade on, ask Keenan about her Bruins fandom and she handles the subject with a grave seriousness — “I feel, really, just amazed that the universe let me witness Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in the same lifetime,” she says with a reverence any Bostonian would respect.


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