By: Gayle Troiani | Follow me on Twitter @LadyBruinsFan
Keith Aucoin was anything but your typical hockey player. Instead, the 5-foot-8, 172-pound is the epitome of making your dreams come true by working hard and never giving up. Aucoin’s hard work paid off, and he will be honored Monday, February 6, in Laval, Quebec, at the American Hockey League’s All-Star Classic festivities when he is inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame.
“It’s a really cool accomplishment,” Aucoin said of the honor. “I never thought it would happen. I was on a lot of good teams and had a lot of good teammates. Hockey is the ultimate team sport.”
Playing in 769 AHL games scattered over 13 seasons for Lowell, Providence, Cincinnati, Albany, Hershey, Toronto, and Chicago, Aucoin netted 857 points, 244 goals, and 613 assists. Aucoin still holds seventh place overall in points and fifth in assists in the AHL.
“I was a playmaker. I was a pass-first kind of guy,” Aucoin explained. “Coaches yelled at me for not taking enough shots, but I grew up watching Craig Janney and Adam Oates. So that’s who I modeled my game after.”
Being a visionary on the ice was a natural talent for Aucoin, but because of his size, he worked extra hard at skating and developing the rest of his game. After graduating from Chelmsford High School, Aucoin began his college playing career with Norwich University.
His hard work began to pay off. Aucoin thrived at Norwich University, scoring 238 points in 90 games over four years. He ranks first overall in points and assists and second in goals scored. Aucoin also helped the Cadets win the NCAA Division III Championship in 2000. Aucoin was elected into the Norwich Hall of Fame in 2016.
After college came the next challenge. Undrafted, Aucoin didn’t give up on his dream of playing professional hockey. It began in 2001 when he played 44 games for the B.C. Iceman, a team in the now-defunct United Hockey League. Aucoin, once again, put up solid offensive numbers, 23 goals, and 35 assists before signing with the Lowell Lock Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes at the time.
“I had the odds stacked against me going to a division three school,” Aucoin said. “I had to work my way up through every league. My goal was just to get to the AHL, and once I got there, I would try and get to the NHL. That was my mindset, and I knew it would be a long road, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
In 2010, Aucoin won his second straight Calder Cup with Hershey while being named the league’s MVP after tallying a career-high 106 points in 72 games. Aucoin attributes his success to his teammates.
“That year in Hershey, we had won the Calder the year before, and we pretty much had the same team come back,” Aucoin said. “I played with Alexandre Giroux and Andrew Gordon for almost two years. We had really good chemistry, and we were really good. I think we only lost 15 games that season.”
Despite the naysayers along the way, Aucoin achieved his dream of playing in the NHL, skating in 145 NHL games for Carolina, Washington, New York Islanders, and St. Louis, registering 17 goals and 32 assists.
“From high school to college to my pro career, I always played with a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Aucoin said. “I am very fortunate to have had the career I had. Hard work paid off, and I think that is the greatest part.”
These days, Aucoin doesn’t skate much for himself but is on the ice with his sons twice a week as one of their hockey coaches, teaching them the same techniques he used throughout his life.
“My past, I kind of push that to them,” Aucoin said. “They aren’t the best players on their team, but as you get older, that changes and that’s what happened to me. So I tell them to have fun first of all and just play hockey. Enjoy it, work hard, and let the cards fall where they may.
“It’s not an easy game. That’s one of the biggest things. It’s one of the hardest games to play. But, you have to be able to think the game, not just skate. So, that’s what I push on them. Work hard, but always have fun.”
Being retired from hockey doesn’t mean he is away from the game he loves. Aucoin is a scout for the Colorado Avalanche. When Aucoin is not watching players for Colorado in Boston, Providence, Hartford, or Bridgeport, you may find him skating with the Bruins Alumni at one of their benefit games. Aucoin most recently got to skate with former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara at Skate 3 in Tyngsboro.
“I played against Chara when I was with the Islanders,” Aucoin said. “I got to see how big he was and how strong he was, and that wasn’t a lot of fun. So it’s good to be on the same team as him and not have to worry about playing against him.”
Aucoin said having the Bruins as one of the teams he scouts is a lot of fun since they are on such a great run in the NHL.
“They are a deep team. They’re a fast team,” Aucoin said. “They have a lot of skill with four scoring lines and two Norris Trophy candidates with (Charlie) McAvoy and (Hampus) Lindholm on the back end, and they have the best goalie in the league. They’re a tough team to beat.”
Aucoin added that he is a Colorado guy because that is his employer, but as a fan of the Bruins growing up, he hopes they continue to do well this season.
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