Dakota Keene skates down the ice for UMass-Boston. The Poland native is in his senior season. UMass Boston photo

Dakota Keene’s playing career is coming to an end.

The 24-year-old from Poland, who was a boys hockey standout at St. Dom’s and with the Portland Jr. Pirates organization, is in his senior season at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where he’s the team captain. Just like most Division III hockey players, a long pro playing career isn’t in the cards, especially for a forward who only has 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists) in 97 career games.

Dakota Keene is looking to get a job with a NHL job after he graduates from UMass-Boston. UMass-Boston photo

His “retirement” is coming as the Beacons’ regular season ended this weekend. UMass-Boston will take on New England College in the first round of the New England Hockey Conference playoffs next weekend. If the Beacons win the conference tournament then they will qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Whenever the Beacons’ run ends, Keene is at peace with his playing career being over, as he’s ready to chase his NHL dream in a front-office capacity after he graduates this spring with a degree in Management — with a concentration in entrepreneurship and minor in economics.

He also completed a Hockey GM and Scouting program with Sports Management World Wide.

“Once I realized I got to school (that) I loved the game so much, it has given so much to me and my family, I realized I couldn’t just play four years of college hockey and be done with hockey all together,” Keene said. “I needed a way to stay in the game because it has been a big part of my life.”


Yes, his dream is big, but make no mistake about it, Keene has laid the groundwork already to make his dream a reality.

He already has NHL experience, as he spent most of 2019 with the Arizona Coyotes as a video scout. It’s just one of the many things he has done the past few years, including stops at the National Women’s Hockey League, as a junior hockey scout and working with Harvard’s hockey programs.

His lasting impact at UMass-Boston will be felt off the ice, as he’s a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented annually to college hockey’s “finest citizen” for leadership in community service, where he has founded the college’s “Hope Happens Here” chapter, which helps UMass-Boston students learn about mental health issues. Keene organized “Hope Happens Here” games for all of the UMass-Boston athletic teams and raised more than $2,500 for the organization at the men’s designated game this season. He also helped the men’s hockey team get a “Team Impact” player.

Keene also serves as the co-President of the UMass-Boston Student-Athletic Advisory Committee and on serves as a board member of the Student Alliance for Indigenous Peoples Association on campus.

“We have had a Sid Watson Award winner in Colin Larkin (in 2018), the best player, the Hobey Baker Award for Division III. That kid goes to the Edmonton (Oilers organization), that’s special,” UMass Boston coach Peter Belisle said. “This is equally as special here, you have a guy up for the hockey humanitarian award. He’s a top-five finalist and he has a legitimate chance to win this thing.”

Keene had his coach at UMass-Boston sweating a bit on how much he was taking on at first.


“A little bit at first, but it has never affected his job with me here,” Belisle said. “It always kind of amazed me, I was like ‘Geez, are you taking on too much to handle?’ I have a lot of responsibilities and he has to take care of 28 (players as team captain) and their concerns. He has to worry about his part-time job boss and that job, but he has handled it.”

Keene has kept himself busy because that’s what he was taught to do.

“I grew up with parents who worked really hard and we would always be doing 100 different things at once,” Keene said. “My dad has always kind of taught me that you need to stay busy, it’s good for your mind to stay busy. I have kind of taught myself that I like to be busy and help out whenever I can.”


From the get-go, Keene met people in the industry and landed his first scouting gig with the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack of the United States Premier Hockey League, where he started in December of 2017 and lasted to January of 2019.

It was an opportunity he saw surfing the web.


“I saw actually through some different hockey sites and stuff, they were hiring some local scouts to build up their junior program as they were under new ownership,” Keene said. “I was like ‘Yeah, I want to get into the game and this is probably a spot that I could land myself (in) because I have played in the junior leagues in New England.’ I know how they kind of work, how (teams) get a lot of their players from and stuff like that.”

Keene, who dreams to be a general manager in the NHL one day, saw scouting as a foot in the door to the management side of the game. Everybody needs their start and he felt going to a team in a league he was familiar with was a good start for him.


Keene added to his plate in May of 2018 when he started to work with the National Women’s Hockey League with the league’s hockey operations department.

“It turned out to be one of the best opportunities I have had because it’s a small league, they needed help in so much different areas,” Keene said. “They allowed me to do that. I was able to act as an acting GM for teams that didn’t have a GM in the offseason. I was able to track salary cap and spending of teams throughout the season. I was able to track different trades at the trade deadline for them.”

The experience was an eye-opener what the day-to-day life of a GM goes through, even if it was on a smaller scale.


His time with the NWHL just ended last month.


Keene was looking for an internship, but knew it might be tough to do one while he was still playing competitively. He found the Arizona Coyotes’ assistant general manager, Steve Sullivan, on LinkedIn and the two chatted for a few months before Sullivan — who played 16 years in the NHL — told him the organization was looking to hire a video scout, and that Keene should apply since it was a role that he could work remotely in Boston.

Keene’s internship with the Coyotes started in January 2019 and a part of the role was to scout players in juniors, college and the minor leagues through a video platform.

Keene was able to learn the software the Coyotes use to video scout and how scouts write reports on players and who reads the reports.

He even went out to the draft in Vancouver, British Columbia this past June.


Prior to the draft, the Coyotes kept sending him video of a certain player.

“As you are doing the work, you don’t really know how much of it is being seen or who’s seeing it,” Keene said. “All of a sudden, when you get closer to the draft and things start building up, and you realize they are talking about a draft pick that I watched a ton of film on. I show up to the draft and knowing where I ranked guys and different guys I talked to them about, all of a sudden they make their first pick and it was a player I have been able to watch a lot of film on prior to the draft. They actually emailed me a few times about different reports I had written on him.”

That player was Swedish defenseman Victor Söderström, who was drafted 12th overall.

While the internship has ended, he has stayed in touch with the organization.


Keene also has worked with a Division I hockey program as this season, in addition to playing with UMass-Boston, he has been working with Harvard University’s hockey operations department for both the men’s and women’s teams.


It was an opportunity he found out through one of his old junior hockey coaches with the Portland Jr. Pirates, Shawn O’Brien, who runs the department.

Part of his duties is to make travel plans for the teams and get meals set up for the teams on the road. He also pre-scouts for the men’s team, breaking down Harvard’s upcoming opponents through video tools and making videos for the coaching staff to share with the players.

During winter break he acted as a recruiter for UMass-Boston when he was home, as he went to scout a couple of Maine Nordiques games to hope to find his replacement on the team.

“I was there for both of the Generals games and talked to a few guys after the games to let them know (UMass-Boston) was interested, and two of them went on a visit (recently),” Keene said. “The first kid I talked to, I started talking to him and he asked how many forwards (the team) was losing. Instantly in my head I was like ‘There’s four senior forwards that are leaving and I am one of them.’ It was kind of funny.”

Belisle has offered his contacts to Keene to help him find a job after college.

“We are constantly talking about different opportunities — my alma mater at UConn, I already mentioned to him — we talked about going on the university side for a possible coaching avenue,” Belisle said. “I think he’s still unsure exactly, but he could go in so many different directions in how professionally he is and he does a good job of networking.”

Dakota Keene, a 2013 graduate of St. Dom’s skates with the puck. He’s currently with UMass-Boston. UMass-Boston Athletics

Dakota Keene with the puck in a game for UMass-Boston UMass Boston Athletics

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