Keith Yandle was a fourth round pick (105th overall) in 2005 by Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With Kevin Kennedy
The highlight of my youth hockey experience was definitely playing in a tournament up in Canada. We played against a team called the Montreal Vipers who had a bunch of players who are in the NHL now, but we went in there and we beat them and won the tournament. It was pretty special to me. I remember my dad telling us how big that was and I remember going back to school the next week and telling all my buddies. It was awesome.
My father coached me my whole life growing up and I definitely owe a lot to him. He has a great hockey mind and he still loves the game and helps out with minor league teams back in Boston. My dad never let us play hockey in the summer. Whether it was baseball, football, lacrosse, whatever, we could play anything but hockey. He just didn’t want us to burn out. When hockey season came back around, I was hungry and wanted to play even more and I remember getting really excited about getting back on the ice. I remember there was one rink I didn’t look forward to playing at. It was called Milton Academy. It was like half outdoors and they had trailers for dressing rooms. It was brutal.
During the off-season I head back to Massachusetts and play a ton of sports. In the summers I like to golf and play a little tennis and maybe shoot some hoops. As a kid I played a lot of road hockey and I always said I was Ray Bourque. Growing up, I was friends with his son, Chris Bourque, and I always used to get Ray’s old half-broken wooden sticks and I’d use them for street hockey. I was a huge Bruins fan growing up.
As a kid, I always wanted to be a firefighter because my grandfather was a fireman and I looked up to him big time. Whenever I was at my grandparent’s house I was always wearing his helmet pretending to put out fires.
I grew up with an older brother and sister who both played hockey, so as the youngest I usually got stuck with hand-me-down equipment until one summer when my dad rewarded me with something special. I remember me and my brother painted our house one summer and for a gift my dad got me a new pair of Easton skates and that was the first time I’d got a new pair of skates. You know, money wasn’t flying around. Getting that pair of skates was pretty special, I think I wore them for three or four years. I mean now I wear skates for three weeks and get rid of them so it was pretty special.
I played my first NHL game in 2006-2007 when I was called up from San Antonio mid-season. My first game was in Detroit, but I definitely wasn’t matched up against Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg. I remember Datsyuk hopped over the boards on a line change and it wasn’t long before he was coming down on me and I was like, ‘oh boy, here comes an ESPN top 10 goal,’ but he ended up cutting to the middle and nothing really happened.