Meet Mike McKee, a new breed of Red Wing.
Playing minor hockey growing up in Newmarket, Ont., McKee took on the difficult role of team tough guy at an early age.
“Growing up in the Canadian minor hockey system, coaches helped me develop a toughness and take on a role that is hard to do, and that other kids kind of shy away from,” the Red Wings 2012 fifth round pick told Detroit Sports Nation. “I accepted it and took off from there.”
The 6’4”, 230 pound McKee, who said his toughness is his biggest asset, said he has worked with Mark Joslin, a high performance trainer for many professional hockey players, since he was 13 years old. Joslin has helped McKee develop the parts of his game that involve keeping his gloves on.
“He’s helped me with every part of my game,” McKee said. “I work with him in the summer all the time. Skating, shooting, passing, stickhandling, everything.”
After the 2008-09 season that saw him total 14 points and 74 penalty minutes in 25 games with the South Central (Ont.) Coyotes, McKee was drafted in the 6th round, 116th overall by the Ottawa 67s of the OHL. However, instead of heading to the NHL’s number one development league, McKee opted for a different route: prep school in the United States.
“My mom was always big on me getting an education,” McKee said. “After I got drafted into the OHL, she wanted me to explore the college route. I hooked up with a prep school in Connecticut and then I played a year in Lincoln, Nebraska. I had a choice to finish my senior year at Kent, or go to Lincoln. I felt it was time to step up the skill level of hockey, and it ended up turning out pretty good.”
McKee played two years for Kent (Conn.) School and became the franchise’s leader in penalty minutes. In his one season with the Lincoln Stars, McKee cracked their top 20 in minutes served in the sin bin. It was his time spent off the ice and on the penalty bench that has McKee taking a serious look at collegiate hockey. Fighting is banned in the NCAA.
“That’s one of the others reasons I wanted to get into college hockey,” said McKee. “I’ll spend a lot more time playing the game. I can play the game fine, but (in college) I won’t have the choice to drop the gloves. If I’m having a bad game, I’ll have to find a way to play the game with skill and I think that will help me in the long run.”
McKee said he hasn’t yet decided on whether he’ll play next season with the Western Michigan University Broncos or return for another year in Lincoln.
McKee is a self-described defensive defenseman who tries to make the smart, safe play when he has the puck. But does he think he can contribute enough offensively to make it to the NHL?
“I keep my game pretty simple, but yeah I can chip in,” McKee said. “Yeah, I do (think I can make the NHL).”
However, if McKee does indeed crack the Red Wings lineup one day, it will likely be for what got him drafted in the first place: coming to the defence of his teammates.
“Personally, it’s never one guy that is going to get under my skin,” McKee said of why he spends so much time in the penalty box. “It’s a guy who’s going to hit one of my smaller guys, or my skilled teammates that will set me off. That’s what makes me effective, and that’s what I’m good at.”
McKee doesn’t think going the less conventional route of playing high school hockey in the United States followed by a year in the United States Hockey League has hurt his chances of becoming a professional hockey player.
“If you’re good enough, they’re going to find you wherever you’re playing.”
Get to know Mike McKee
On Twitter: MikeMcKee23
Favorite movie: Slapshot
Favorite book: They Call Me Coach – UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, with Jack Tobin
Favorite Singer/Artist:Toby Keith
Guilty pleasure on his iPod: Call me maybe
Pre-game meal: Rice and chicken
Favorite hockey player: Scott Stevens
Favorite number: 3
Favorite team growing up: Toronto Maple Leafs
If you weren’t a hockey player he’d be a: hockey coach
Nickname: Big Mike