Melville Sydney "Butch" Keeling (August 10, 1905 in Owen Sound, Ontario – November 12, 1984 in Toronto, Ontario) was a professional hockey player. A left winger, he played 12 National Hockey League seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers.
Keeling began his hockey career in his hometown, learning the game at Victoria Public School under the tutelage of principal Henry Kelso, for whom Owen Sound's Kelso Beach was named. Several Victoria students, including Keeling, eventually ended up playing for the city's junior club, the Owen Sound Greys. He was a key member of the Greys when they captured their first Memorial Cup as Canadian junior hockey champions in 1924, scoring an incredible 37 goals and 46 points in only 15 playoff games.
Keeling's pro career began in 1926–27 with the London Panthers of the Canadian Professional Hockey League, although he was quickly elevated to the NHL's Toronto St. Patricks, with whom he had signed as a free agent on September 7, 1926. The St. Pats changed their name to the Maple Leafs later that season. Despite playing in only 30 of Toronto's 44 games, Keeling finished fourth in team scoring with 11 goals and 13 points, right behind fellow Owen Sound native Hap Day.
He repeated that showing in 1927–28, again placing right behind Day, but was traded to the New York Rangers on the eve of the 1928–29 season. He and goaltender John Ross Roach were packaged off to the Big Apple for another netminder, Lorne Chabot. Keeling slumped to only six goals and nine points, although he did lead the league in playoff goals and points as the Rangers marched to the final against the Boston Bruins. Boston swept the best-of-three series for its first Stanley Cup win. Among the victorious Bruins was Cooney Weiland, who had starred with Keeling on the 1924 Greys.
Keeling continued to rebound in 1929–30, registering career bests in goals (19) and points (26). Once again, he ended up fourth in team scoring. The Rangers went back to the Cup final in 1931–32 against Toronto but were again swept aside. It was another bitter disappointment for Keeling to see even more of his old mates skating off with the Cup.
But he and his new club got revenge in a rematch the following year, on April 13, 1933. Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens was the site of Game 4 of the 1933 Cup final, and the Rangers held a 2–1 lead in the best-of-five series. The contest was scoreless through three periods but was decided at the 7:33 mark of sudden-death overtime. According to an article which appeared in the April 24, 1933 edition of Time magazine,
"Butch Keeling took the puck at a face-off, whipped through the Toronto defense on the left side of the rink, made a pass all the way across the ice of which he later said: 'If I hadn't seen that Bill was there, I would have kept the puck myself.' Bill was Bill Cook, oldest active player on the Rangers, leading scorer of the National League ... (Cook) took the puck without breaking his stride, feinted to bring tall Lorne Chabot away from the Toronto net, then flipped the puck over Chabot's shoulder for the goal that ended the game 1 to 0, the series 3 to 1."
Keeling had finally won the Stanley Cup, but his finest campaign as a professional was still yet to come. In 1936–37 he led the Rangers with a career-high 22 goals (third in the league) and matched his previous career best with 26 points. He was fourth in team scoring for the fifth time (he never did place higher than fourth in any of his NHL seasons) and also posted high-water marks in the playoffs, notching three goals and five points as the Rangers advanced to a fifth and deciding game in the Stanley Cup final against the Detroit Red Wings.
He left the NHL after the 1937–38 season and played one year with the Philadelphia Ramblers, a Rangers farm team in the International-American Hockey League. Keeling was also the team's captain. He then became a player-coach with the Kansas City Greyhounds of the American Hockey Association. Keeling later returned to the NHL, spending three seasons as a referee.
During Keeling's NHL career, he played in 526 regular season games, scoring 157 goals and 220 points. He added five goals and 11 points in 26 playoff contests.
He was 79 years old when he died suddenly at his Toronto home in 1984. He is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in that city.
In 2009, Keeling was ranked No. 45 on the all-time list of New York Rangers in the book 100 Ranger Greats (John Wiley & Sons).
By Dean Hanley
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