The Everett Silvertips and Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League made history earlier this year.
The teams battled in a seemingly never-ending game that took nearly five full overtime periods to complete on April 4. When Everett’s Cal Babych scored the game-winning goal at the 11:24 mark in that fifth OT, it capped a Canadian Hockey League record for longest game in history with 151 minutes and 36 seconds of game play.
Keith Anderson, a 2015 graduate of Hermiston High School, was in the middle of the action as a winger for Everett as he is in his third season playing in the major junior league ranks. Anderson recalled that game recently, saying that when the goal horn sounded for the game-winner he was happy it was his team that won, but was more relieved that the game was finally over.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do endurance wise,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think it would ever end, honestly. We were mentally exhausted and our legs were about to collapse. We snacked and chugged Gatorade every intermission.
“I personally hit a post (with a shot) in the fourth overtime that would’ve ended it, and the team just couldn’t seem to bury any chances. But then Babych jumped on a breakaway with their defenseman who was really tired on the backcheck and he put it home. We were all so tired but that goal definitely sparked a ton of energy and excitement into us as we all skated onto the ice and jumped on top of him. It was so cool.”
The game length broke the previous playoff record of 136 minutes and 53 seconds of play, which was set back in 2003 between the Kamloops Blazers and Kootenay Ice, as well as the CHL record for longest game ever that went 146 minutes and 31 seconds in 1999 between the Victoriaville Tigers and Hull Olympiques.
“After the fourth overtime, they made an announcement in the arena as we walked back into the room ‘This is officially the longest game in league history. Thank you for staying with us fans!’,” Anderson recalled. “During that moment we all smiled, realizing we were a part of history.”
The win clinched a playoff series win for Everett, four games to two over Victoria, and sent the Silvertips into the second round. Everett’s playoff run stopped there, though, as Seattle ousted them and went on to win the Western Hockey League championship.
Anderson played in just 10 games for the Silvertips, where he registered no points and a +2 rating while tallying 21 penalty minutes. The win over Victoria is what will stand out from this season, though, as the Royals were the team that originally drafted Anderson in the sixth round of the WHL Bantam draft back in 2012. He spent parts of three seasons with Victoria spanning 39 games, where he tallied one goal, five assists and an even plus-minus rating before moving on with Everett.
“I would consider myself a power forward,” Anderson said. “I’m a big player, good at using my body to create offense. I love to hit, and have fought a few times.”
Anderson was born in Kansas City, Missouri, which is where his father, Jeremy, got him interested in hockey as a child. Jeremy, now a sports medicine and orthopedic doctor in Hermiston, played some club hockey in college and in various adult leagues. The Andersons moved to Hermiston in 2008 when Keith was 8-years-old and a lack of youth hockey programs or interest almost led Keith to quit the sport.
“I decided to give it a try in the Tri-Cities,” Anderson said. “I watched an Americans game or the first time and knew that I wanted to play in that league right away ... it was sort of my childhood dream.”
But once Anderson got to high school he realized that his chances of developing enough and getting noticed were slim, so he moved away with stops at different high schools in Phoenix, Arizona and Spokane, Washington. While he was in Spokane he got drafted by Victoria and signed his entry-level contract when he was 16.
The contract worked like a full-ride scholarship to a school of his choice on top of a small monthly stipend. When he signed his contract, it eliminated any chance of ever playing Division I college hockey because he was no longer an amateur in the eyes of the NCAA. But playing in the WHL under the Canadian Hockey League umbrella is no slouch, as many of the NHL’s top stars played in one of the CHL’s three leagues — the WHL, the Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
A total of 133 WHL alumni were on NHL opening day rosters for the 2016-17 season, including stars like Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, Boston captain Zdeno Chara, Montreal goaltender Carey Price, and Washington goaltender Braden Holtby.
“In Canada, we’re on national TV often,” Anderson said.
When his season ended with Victoria in 2015 during his senior year in high school, Anderson knew that he wanted to return to Hermiston to graduate with the friends he began high school with.
“I was a part of the state championship football team’s class and I grew up playing sports with all of those boys,” he said. “I was great friends with most of them and when the season ended I had a choice of finishing where I was or transferring back to Hermiston ... I chose to come back mainly to be with my friends one last time and it’s a decision I’m happy I made.”
Anderson has one more season remaining on his WHL contract, which expires when he turns 20. Like any hockey player, he has an ultimate dream of playing in the NHL, though he’s still trying to figure out his next steps.
“I have always had intentions on continuing my career professionally, but it is a very hard business,” he said. “I may be attending an NHL training camp this summer, but likely I will play in college and take advantage of my scholarship in Canada and could very possibly play pro in Europe as there are many, many leagues there that pay well.”
Contact Eric at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.