Hockey legend Jack Kelley dies at 93
September 18, 2020
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John “Jack” Kelley, a legend in hockey circles, especially in Maine, died Sept. 16 at age 93. Mr. Kelley also owned a few Standardbreds that raced in Maine and attended horse sales with his son, trainer Paul Kelley.
In the 1950s, Mr. Kelley transformed Colby College men’s hockey into an indomitable force in New England and made a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of players.
“The term ‘legendary’ is used too often and frequently with hyperbole,” said Colby College President David A. Greene. “But it is no exaggeration to say that Jack Kelley was a legendary coach, teacher, and friend. He was a brilliant hockey coach, but his lessons went well beyond the ice. He had a rare combination of toughness and caring that brought out the best in everyone.”
Mr. Kelley was a standout player as a high schooler in Belmont, Mass., and was named the top Boston schoolboy performer. His coaching career began at Weston High School, where he was involved in football, baseball, and hockey. His career college coaching record was 303-147-13 and his pro record was 77-55-6. Mr. Kelley’s teams featured 14 first-team All-Americans
From 1955 to 1962, Kelley coached Colby’s men’s hockey team, which posted a record of 89-51-5. Mr. Kelley was named the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1962 after leading Colby to the semifinals of the first ECAC hockey tournament at Boston Arena.
After the 1961-62 season, Mr. Kelley left for his alma mater, Boston University, then returned to Colby to coach for the 1976-77 season. That year, Colby’s young team went on to beat Division I Northeastern for Kelley’s 300th career victor.
Mr. Kelley won national titles in 1971 and 1972 while the coach at Boston University. He formed the New England Whalers in the new World Hockey Association, and the team became the first winner of the league’s Avco World Trophy. Mr. Kelley went on to work in the Detroit Red Wings organization, and he became president of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993, the same year he was inducted into the US Hockey Hal of Fame. He retired from the Penguins in 2001.
In addition to his son Paul, Mr. Kelley is survived by sons David and Mark, daughter Nancy, and their extended families.