After a confusing week, Michigan State defenseman Duncan Keith made his debut with Kelowna of the Western Hockey League Friday night, almost certainly denoting the end of his college hockey career.
Keith signed a contract last week with the Rockets of the WHL, a Canadian major junior league, rendering him ineligible in the eyes of the NCAA. The sophomore from nearby Penticton, B.C., had 3-6–9 in 15 games for Michigan State this season, a year after earning CCHA All-Rookie honorable mention status.
Shortly after signing the contract, Keith apparently tried to return to the Spartans, according to MSU head coach Rick Comley, who said that Keith had had a “change of heart.”
However, even though he hadn’t appeared in a game, his ineligibility had already been established. Michigan State could have appealed to reinstate him, but the precedent in cases involving major juniors has included a year of lost playing time, as in the recent case of T.J. Caig at Minnesota-Duluth.
“I think he felt the pressure by the Rockets, our family adviser and myself,” Keith’s father, David, told the Lansing State Journal. “He signed the contract with the Rockets and it seemed to be a good situation. But then six hours later, he was devastated.”
Keith played for Kelowna Friday night at home against Prince George, tallying an assist in his WHL debut. His departure, along with fellow defenseman Evan Shaw’s decision to join the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, means that Michigan State now has only five defensemen on the roster.