Gordon Blanchard "Duke" Keats - Born March 21, 1895 in Montreal, Quebec – Died January 16, 1972 in Victoria, British Columbia was a Canadian ice Hockey centre, coach and executive.
Keats was born in Montreal, Quebec and at a young age moved with his family to North Bay, Ontario. He was six years old when his young friends in North Bay gave him the nickname of "Duke" after a warship.
As a 14-year-old he joined the Cobalt Mining Hockey League and gained a reputation as a magnificent puck handler. By the age of 17 he was making $75 a month playing Hockey. "To just a kid," he later said of his income, "it looked like a million."
Keats joined the NHA's Toronto Hockey Club (Toronto Blueshirts) in 1915 and finished fifth in league scoring that year. After playing part of a second season with Toronto in 1916–17, he enlisted in the Canadian military and as a member of the 228th Battalion, spent the following three years fighting in World War I. He returned to Toronto after the war, practicing with the NHL St.Patricks, when he decided to pack up and move west to pursue his Hockey career.
Keats settled in Edmonton, Alberta and joined the Edmonton Eskimos of the Big-4 League in 1919, leading the league in scoring in both 1919–20 and 1920–21. Officially an amateur league, there were rumours that Keats and several other players were secretly being paid a professional salary to play in the Big-4.
The Eskimos officially turned professional when it helped form the Western Canada Hockey League / WCHL in 1921 with Keats as the league's greatest star. He played for the Eskimos in all four seasons of the league's existence. One of the most gifted offensive players of his time, legend has it that he once collected a puck in his own zone and scored a goal after skating the length of the ice surface backwards. Keats led the Eskimos in scoring in 1921–22, recording 31 goals and 24 assists in 25 games, to lead the Eskimos to the top record in the league and the WCHL final where they lost to the Regina Capitals. The Eskimos again finished with the league's top record in 1922–23, and again faced the Regina Capitals in the final. The Eskimos avenged the previous season as Keats scored the championship winning goal in overtime of the second game on a penalty shot.
Keats and the Eskimos then played the Ottawa Senators in the 1923 Stanley Cup Final, a best of 3 game series. In the first game, Edmonton was leading 1–0, on a goal by Crutchy Morrison, before Lionel Hitchman scored in the third period to tie the game. Keats of Edmonton was awarded a penalty shot during the game, but failed to score. Cy Denneny scored after two minutes of overtime to win the game for the Senators. In the second game, the Senators got a first period goal from Harry Broadbent and made it stand to the end of the game for the championship.
In the history of the WCHL, Keats scored the most goals with 117, and also the most points with 184 in 137 regular season games. He also had 2 goals, 3 assists in 8 playoff games.
The WCHL became the Western Hockey League / WHL starting for the 1925-26 season, and Keats was also named as a First Team All-Star for the WHL in 1926
When the WHL folded in 1926, Keats moved on to play in the NHL, as the Eskimos sold the rights to Keats and six other players to the Boston Bruins for $50,000.
Keats played his 1st NHL game on November 16, 1926 vs the Montreal Canadiens at Boston Arena (Matthews Arena). He scored his 1st NHL goal vs Herb Stuart of the Detroit Cougars on November 18, 1926, which turned out to be the game winner for Boston. Keats played just 17 games of the 1926–27 NHL season in Boston before he was traded to the Detroit Cougars as a player/coach, along with Archie Briden, in exchange for Frank Fredrickson and Harry Meeking. Keats played 25 games for the Cougars to finish the season.
Keats began the following season in Detroit but was suspended early in the season (5 games) after swinging his stick at a spectator in Chicago who was heckling him. He missed three weeks of play as a result. The day after his reinstatement, the Cougars sent him to the Chicago Black Hawks for Gord Fraser and $5,000 cash. Keats played 32 games for the Black Hawks to finish the 1927-28 season.
After three games with Chicago to start the 1928–29 season, Keats left the Black Hawks and helped organize the new Tulsa Oilers of the American Hockey Association / AHA. This was the first Hockey team in Tulsa, with the brand new Tulsa Coliseum. The 1st official game was on January 1st, 1929 vs the Duluth Hornets.
With legendary coach Dick Carroll running the Oilers, Keats was the league's top scorer with 22 goals (11 assists) that season, and Tulsa won the 1929 Harry F. Sinclair Trophy as AHA champions in their 1st season.
Keats played only 3 games (2 goals, 2 assists) for Tulsa in the 1929-30 season. He then played 43 games in the 1930-31 season, scoring 14 goals, 10 assists. In the playoffs, Keats helped the Oilers win the 1931 Harry F. Sinclair Trophy as AHA champions.
Keats then took the 1931–32 season off.
Keats returned to Edmonton in 1932 as a player, coach and owner of a reformed Eskimos team. He regained his amateur status and played the final 2 years of his career with the Eskimos of the North West Hockey League / NWHL.
Keats went on to coach several teams in the Canadian prairies and briefly worked for the Black Hawks before settling in Victoria, British Columbia in 1947 where he worked for the government and served as president of the Victoria Commercial Hockey League.
Duke Keats was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958.
Duke Keats was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 1964.