It has been more than three years since Mike Keenan last served as coach of an NHL team. His up-and-down run involving eight teams over 25 years ended in 2009, when he led the Calgary Flames to their last Stanley Cup Playoff appearance.
But after an eventful summer, the man known as "Iron Mike" is still hoping for another shot in the NHL.
For Keenan, things picked up markedly in April, when he was announced as the new coach of the Canadian hockey team for the 2013 Maccabiah Games, an international sporting event in Israel in which thousands of Jewish athletes representing dozens of countries compete in more than 30 sports. For Keenan, whose ex-wife is Jewish and whose daughter was raised in the faith, it was a unique opportunity.
"I have a real sense of the faith and the people. My mother-in-law escaped Auschwitz [concentration camp] and I went to Auschwitz in 1972 and had conversations with her after that," Keenan told NHL.com. "My involvement is deeper than hockey. That's a large reason why I wanted to get involved."
With former NHL player Greg Gilbert and former New York Rangers assistant coach Mile Pelino serving as his assistants, Keenan held training camps over the summer in Montreal and Toronto. The process of assembling a roster will continue until next June, by which time Keenan will name his team for the competition, which was first staged in 1932 and will open in Jerusalem on July 18.
In the midst of putting together his Maccabiah Games team, Keenan's summer suddenly took an interesting turn after he received a call from Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee regarding that club's coaching vacancy after Dale Hunter stepped down in May. Adam Oates ultimately got the job, but the long look from the Capitals renewed Keenan's hopes for another opportunity in the NHL.
"I'd love to coach back in the League. You never know if the game is going to call you back or not," Keenan said. "I still have the intellect for it, the knowledge and the passion for the game."
There certainly aren't many coaching resumes quite like Keenan's. The 1985 Jack Adams Award winner has won championships in junior hockey and the American Hockey League, along with his 1994 Stanley Cup with the Rangers. But Keenan, who will turn 63 in October, is older than any current NHL coach. With a third of the League's bench bosses 46 or younger, he is hoping to buck the trend toward hiring younger coaches.
"[Scotty] Bowman coached almost until he was 70. [Ken] Hitchcock set a good example. He's the oldest coach in the League (60) and won Coach of the Year," Keenan said. "I know if I can get back in the League I can do a superb job. Whether that will ever happen, I have no idea."