“At the start of COVID, we never thought this virus was going to be that bad and that it would never affect anyone that I knew of or my family. Boy were we wrong. This world is twisted.”
Keegan Kolesar has had a difficult past few months. Playing hockey for a living typically doesn’t involve residing in a hotel bubble away from family, friends and everyday civilization. But 2020 has been anything but typical. And for the 23-year-old Vegas Golden Knight, the Stanley Cup Playoffs were the least of his concerns.
“To be honest, that was a fun time,” Kolesar laughed. “I had it pretty easy. I’m a single guy and I don’t have a wife, girlfriend or kids to worry about, so it made it a lot easier for me to be in that kind of situation. Obviously, it was tough for the dads out there, for the guys who have babies on the way or those who just saw their babies born and had to say goodbye to them for the next few months. It was a wild run.”
But while he was away, his father Charles Peterson’s health took a turn for the worst. Diagnosed with COVID-19, the 46-year-old former professional baseball player was hospitalized for nearly a month before ultimately succumbing to the deadly virus. The former Winnipeg Goldeye had spent the past eight years with the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur scout while serving double duty as an assistant coach for his son’s high school football team.
“Charles had an incredible impact on our scouting department,” said Randy Flores, Cardinals Scouting Director. “He brought a tremendous work ethic, keen eye, and booming laugh with him every day. My prayers are with his wife Karen and family as anyone who ever talked to CP knew how proud he was of them.”
The time following Peterson’s death has been that of reflection and growth as a family, Kolesar says. Although there typically aren’t many positives following the death of a loved one, daily FaceTime calls with the family have become the new norm, something the 23-year-old forward has really come to enjoy.
“It’s been a lot, mentally, for sure,” he said. “Not just for me, but for my little brother and my little sister, as well as my mom and my dad’s family. It’s been hard for all of us. I’ve always had hockey as an outlet to get my mind off things. And then with COVID happening and taking that away, it’s kind of made me think more about everything; it’s tough.”
“I think everyone deals with these kinds of things their own way,” Kolesar added. “But for me and my family, we just became even tighter, We now have FaceTime calls every day just to catch up and talk more. My brother is in his senior year of football in high school, so it’s a big year for him. I really want him to go to a good college and get a good education while playing football at the highest level he can. My sister is playing the highest level of volleyball that she can for herself out there too, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. We all have our own little thing to do, and we all have something that our dad put a lot of his own time into helping us achieve, so it’s kind of helped and motivated us even more.”
Now finally done playing hockey, Kolesar has been able to get back to his training for the coming season – whenever it is that will be.
“I just started back in the gym this past week,” he said. “I try to give it a bit of time, but with training camp and the bubble it has just been really busy. We came back tired. Even though I wasn’t playing, I kept myself to a high standard in practice and was constantly weight training and doing everything I could to stay in shape. It’s also a summer training aspect, so I generally take a little bit of time off when it’s all said and done. I had some stuff I had to do just with family and my personal life as well, now with the contract being done, it’s taken my mind off a little bit of worry and I can get back to the gym and get back on track with everything.”
Oh right, and he signed a new contract. It certainly has been a busy offseason for the former Seattle Thunderbird. After splitting time between the NHL and the AHL last season, Kolesar put his name on a two-year contract worth $725K annually this past Monday, and is looking forward to repping Vegas’ gold this coming season.
“I’m like any other kid, I plan to play in the NHL,” he said matter-of-factly. “That’s what you spend all summer training for. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you plan on playing in the American league. No offence to the AHL, it’s a great league, but you know, if you have that high standard for yourself, you’re doing the right thing. For myself it’s always been to play in the NHL. The way the deal is formatted it gives me that opportunity. I get two chances at playing for the Golden Knights in the NHL, so I’m very happy that they have that trust in me to sign me to the two-year deal and invest in me. I want to prove to them that they made the right decision in adding me to the team and help them win.”
Having put up 35 goals, 79 points and 205 penalty minutes in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves the past three years, the hefty forward is ready to take the next step forward. With his NHL debut behind him, and a fresh contract having been signed, the next step is one of full-time NHL service.
“I am beyond happy that I can be back with Vegas for another two years,” Kolesar said. “All the chips have finally fallen into place here and I’m really excited to get the season going and have this opportunity again. I wasn’t really too worried about getting the deal done, but you know, it is a contract and you never really know what could happen, but you always want the best outcome. Everything that my agent formatted and we agreed upon was perfect for me and it was perfect for Vegas as well. I couldn’t be happier to sign that yesterday morning.”