Chicago, IL –When you think of duos or great male pairings you usually do not think of sports let alone professional hockey. The art world is what usually comes to mind. You think of the creative pairings of Lennon/McCartney, Rodgers/Hammerstein and Simon/Garfunkle or the matinée heart-throb pairings of film idols like Newman/Redford, Clooney/Pitt or Damon/Affleck. For laughs and sheer entertainment you think Lewis/Martin, Laurel/Hardy or Beevis and Butthead.
You’d never think in a sports environment where males compete amongst and against each other, especially on the dog eat dog professional level that you would ever find a male duo that encompassed talent, creativity, mutual respect, skill, friendship and humor. The Chicago Blackhawks have such a pairing with defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Hollywood has known for years that in western culture especially in the United States, male bonding movies were box office hits. It is uncharacteristic for men to express emotions openly especially towards another man which is why these films are so successful.
The “Buddy Movie” genre of Hollywood typically pairs males that are vastly different from one another or have different personas that initially misunderstand one another but through shared events develop a mutual respect and grow a friendship and bond that is not completely understood by outsiders.
In Hollywood films these male buddy relationships are entertaining and amusing stories yet they are fictitious and scripted. What has more significance than any Hollywood production is the extraordinary bond between these two team mates, blue line partners and ultimately friends. This makes the combo of Seabrook and Keith unique and special. Their relationship is tangible and intriguing because it is out of the norm.
Whether it’s Keith and Seabrook or Seabrook and Keith they are as different yet as compatible as the earth and the moon or ice and a hockey stick. One’s a little Country the other a little Rock and Roll. One has the heart of a poet the other has the heart of a warrior. One is uber serious and the other is serious about being silly. Whatever the mixture is it brings an incredible balance to both on the ice and to their games and I suspect to them off the ice as well.
The duo call themselves” thunder and lightening”. Team mate Patrick Sharp has stated that it’s a good description of the two. 1 I’m sure he was referring to their differences in playing style. I would suggest it is also a perfect descriptor because not only does it capture their playing styles but you usually do not have one without the other.
Women don’t completely understand male to male relations or the competitive thing men have with each other. What they do understand is friendship and loyalty when exhibited. When Brent Seabrook went down last year after the dirty hit by Raffe Torres in the playoff series the Blackhawks had against their arch rival Vancouver Canucks, Duncan Keith went into beast mode for his fallen partner. I have to say I think every female hockey fan got tingles and immediately fell in love with this pair. Women understand emotions and the expression of feelings. When you see grown men able to express it and be secure enough in their own manhood it is really refreshing.
When Duncan Keith was interviewed in his locker room stall with Seabrook’s jersey hanging behind him saying he was going to play for his fallen partner because Seabrook said he still wanted to come back and play well it gave us insight into their special relationship. I don’t think I’ve ever witnesses pure male emotion in the sports arena being expressed and in all of it’s beauty in front of a big stage media market no less. Now I don’t want to embarrass the guys but it was touching to say the least.
In the offseason the Blackhawks had plenty of time for evaluation and self scouting after being ushered out by the Canucks. What did Seabrook do? Well he moved closer to his buddy Duncan Keith and the two still saw each other even in the off season. Ok now it’s time for the collective awe. Obviously these two really do like each other even outside of hockey and are probably soul brothers for life.
Both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are great hockey players in their own rights but there is no question that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Their defensive styles are much different from each other yet they complement each other well. It’s as if these two no longer need to verbalize things on ice they just know where they should be to cover for their partner if need be. Personally I never want to see these two apart on the ice.
Seabrook is more like an old school stay at home defensemen. He is physical and capable of leveling anyone with his hits. Make no mistakes, though he uses his stick on many occasions to thwart the leagues high scorers and is very adept and skilled using this hockey stick in his defensive game. Seabrook is the model of consistency and solid like a rock.
Keith is more a two-way defensemen and is just as comfortable jumping into the offence as he is in his own zone ala Bobby Orr. While he is not physically imposing like his partner Seabrook he possesses a skating speed and hockey intellect that won him the Norris trophy. Where his game is similar to Seabrook is in his stick work. He has a quick stick in the defensive zone that does not let opponents get clear shots on his goalie.
They say opposites attract and maybe that holds true for all relationships or maybe kinship is borne from surviving trials and tribulations. Both Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were in Chicago when they played to a near empty stadium which had to try them and make them wonder why they were even playing. Chicago should never forget these two along with Patrick Sharp helped to bring hockey back to Chicago and restore pride in the Indianhead jersey.
Maybe it was experiencing winning a gold medal for their country together. Seabrook, Keith and Toews all share something few people will ever know. They were given the honor of representing and playing for team Canada and brought home the Olympic gold medal. They helped bring pride and joy to a nation.
Whether it is because these two literally lived and grew up together on the Blackhawks in the dark days of the franchise; or their bringing their country pride through an Olympic gold medal; or they just have chemistry between them, whatever it is it’s visibly special.
The greatest thing about this pairing is it’s genuine and will last longer than any two-hour Hollywood matinée movie or comedy act or hockey game or NHL season for that matter. They have an enduring bond that maybe none of us will ever understand because of all that they have experienced and achieved together at such a young age.
Hopefully though they will continue to give us glimpses of what the Keith/Seabrook brotherhood is all about during their quest for another Stanley Cup. Another Cup in Chicago would be nice, and as hard as it is to believe Keith and Seabrook already have something more valuable than a Stanley Cup – a lifelong friendship.
1) taken from article entitled Double D by Sarah Kwak from the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions Sports Illustrated commemorative issue.