As part of a new “A Look Back” series featuring former Gustie student-athletes and teams, Gustavus sports information intern Linnea Moat `15 takes a look back at the 1983-84 Gustavus men’s hockey team and its run to an MIAC Championship. Specifically, Moat profiles the program’s most prolific passer and key member of that team, Doug Keys.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Gustavus men’s hockey team’s 1984 MIAC Championship title. After clinching the conference championship title 11 times in 12 seasons, beginning with the 1965-66 season, the Gusties went on a six season dry spell before winning the MIAC Championship in the 1983-1984 season. It would be another eight seasons before the Gusties would win the conference title again. The team went 16-12-1 overall and 13-2-1 in the MIAC that year, a phenomenal accomplishment in a conference with competitive opponents such as Augsburg and St. Thomas. Gustavus won the MIAC Championship thanks in large part to the standout efforts of their record-shattering front line—David Ellis, Dave Sobaski, and Doug Keys.
Center Doug Keys was a junior the year his team claimed the MIAC Championship, helping lead the Gusties to the conference title by scoring 56 points that season. Doug was a magician with the puck—he would keep the puck in the offensive zone, finding holes and gliding past any defender before pulling the goalkeeper to the corner of the net and dumping the puck in front of his line-mate’s stick, allowing them plenty of chances to score. Doug was always creating opportunities for his teammates—his 40 assists throughout that season ranks second in school history for most assists in a season behind his own school record of 41 his sophomore year. Not only does Doug hold the record for most assists in a season, but his 137 career assists is the most by any Gustavus men’s hockey player in history—33 assists ahead of second place Mike Gempeler who totaled 104 over his career.
Scoring more than a quarter of his career goals that season, Doug netted 16 goals and even recorded the lone hat trick of his career in a 6-0 victory over Bethel during the 1983-’84 season. Adding to his assist total, Doug also scored 53 career goals bringing his career point-total to 190, which ranks second in scoring in Gustavus hockey history.
Throughout his four years at Gustavus, Doug played in an astounding 118 games, which is the second highest number of games played by any male hockey player in the team’s history. Doug’s line-mate David Ellis ranks first, having played 119 games. Doug, the “Iron Man” was both gritty and durable—in a highly competitive and physical era in college hockey, the fact that Doug only missed three games in his career is an impressive feat.
Keys was respected by his teammates both on and off the ice. He stood out as a hard-nosed, competitive, work-hard kind of guy, even on an extremely hard-working team. Doug was never the one to give the team charismatic pep-talks, but he was a clutch player who would take charge of the game when the team was in a bind. Playing with un-matched hockey sense, it was as if everyone else on the ice was playing with blinders on while he had full vision. He was one of the best centers ever to play at Gustavus, and his teammates knew he was a team player that they could count on to make big plays and to set them up for success—important traits for a team captain to posses. Consequently, Doug was named captain of the men’s hockey team his senior year (1984-85). Three times in his career Doug was named All-Conference (1982-’83, 1983-’84, 1984-’85), and following the 1983-84 season, was named to the America Hockey Coaches Association All-American team.
After finishing his hockey career at Gustavus, Doug played professional hockey overseas in Olsberg, Germany for one year. He then returned to the United States where he served as an assistant coach under Don Roberts. After coaching, Keys joined the family business, Keys Well Drilling out of St. Paul, where he is now the operations manager and part owner. Currently, Doug lives in Cottage Grove, Minn. with his wife Karen (Wolske) Keys ’87.
Doug’s favorite memory of his collegiate career came following the team’s final regular season game – a 7-3 win over Saint Mary’s at Don Roberts Ice Rink. Following the game, news came through the wire that St. Thomas suffered a loss in its finale, which earned Gustavus the 1983-84 MIAC title outright. During the team’s celebration at the Flame Bar in downtown St. Peter later that night, Don Roberts himself made an appearance to once again congratulate the team.
“I remember we were ecstatic about the news that we won the championship following our game and then Donny showed up at the Flame,” laughed Keys as he reflected on that night. “When Donny walked through the door the guys picked him up and paraded him around the Flame on their shoulders. It was classic Donny and a moment that I will never forget.”
When asked what he learned most from playing under coach Roberts, Doug said, “He was such a great guy and what I learned the most from him was how to treat people. He respected everyone and treated everyone equally. You just had to like Donny because that’s the type of guy he is.”
Although he admits to not being one of the biggest or fastest guys on the ice, Doug says that he had a great feel for the game and great vision on the ice. “I had the greatest linemates and those were the guys who made the whole thing click. They were the workers and I was just sort of in the middle to spread the puck around. I wasn’t the greatest goal-scorer, but I didn’t have to be because of all the talent I was surrounded with.”
“Experience everything and take it all in,” Keys said when asked what advice he would give his freshman self. “Embrace the college atmosphere at Gustavus because the overall experience is second to none.”
The 1983-84 Gustavus men’s hockey team will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of its title run this Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Gustavus versus St. Thomas men’s hockey game set to begin at 7:05 p.m.