On Thursday’s 52nd anniversary of their last Stanley Cup, the Maple Leafs have lost the great Red Kelly.
The 91-year-old, known as one of the most gentlemanly players in the NHL, as well as among its most skilled, was part of four titles in Toronto, preceded by four others with the Detroit Red Wings. He also coached the Leafs in the 1970s.
“The entire Leafs organization mourns the passing of Red Kelly,” said Leaf President Brendan Shanahan in a statement . “For those of us who were lucky enough to have known or encountered Red, we will all miss his sharp mind and keen intellect. He was a gentleman, but a fierce competitor. Above all, he was a family man, and he will be missed by his hockey family. Our deepest sympathies go out to Andra, their children, grandchildren and the entire Kelly family.”
Kelly’s No. 4 is retired by both the Leafs and Red Wings, the latter ceremony taking place at Little Caesars Arena in a game against Toronto.
In 1960, after winning a Norris Trophy, the four Cups and becoming the highest scoring defenceman in NHL history, Kelly joined the Leafs after refusing to report to New York following a trade with the Rangers. Envisioning Kelly as a centre who could match against the great Jean Beliveau of the Habs, Kelly changing positions and helped make the Leafs a dynasty.
“If you’re going to win the Cup, every man has to give extra,” Kelly said in 2017. “It’s not like golf.”
Kelly credited a camaraderie on and off the ice with the Leafs in ‘67.
“We stayed together,” Kelly said of a very difficult regular season. “That Cup (and three others that preceded it) were four that Montreal didn’t get.”
Kelly’s time with the Leafs included a three-year stint as a Member of Parliament, in which he did not miss any NHL playing time.
The Hall of Famer was also named one of the NHL’s ‘100 Greatest Players’ in its centennial year. He also has a statue on Legends Row in Maple Leaf Square.
The Leafs included a famous Kelly quote in their obit: “I’m a Celt. We don’t ask for any favours. They bury us straight up so we’re ready for the fight in the next world.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019