Leonard “Red” Kelly

Leonard Patrick “Red” Kelly, CM (born 9 July 1927 in Port Dover, Ontario), is a retired Canadian hockey player in the NHL. He played on more Stanley Cup winning teams (eight) than any player who never played for the Montreal Canadiens. He was also a Liberal Member of Parliament for the Toronto-area riding of York West from 1962 to 1965. Kelly grew up listening to Foster Hewitt’s broadcasts of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and was particularly inspired by the style of their hard-charging defenceman, Red Horner. Kelly also attended Doan’s Hollow Public School in Port Dover. However, while playing junior hockey for the St. Michael’s Majors, he was encouraged to refine his style by his coach, former Leaf great Joe Primeau.

NHL career

Although the Majors were usually a talent pipeline for the Maple Leafs, the NHL club passed on Kelly after a scout predicted he wouldn’t last 20 games in the NHL, and the nineteen year-old joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1947. In 1954 he was runner-up for the Hart Trophy and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman, the first time the trophy was awarded and also won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1951, 1953, and 1954 as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player. An exceptional player at both ends of the ice, Kelly was known not only for his great checking skills as a defenceman, but also for his exceptional puck-handling and passing skills as well. Kelly used all these elements to help the Red Wings move the puck down the ice very quickly. When injuries hampered the team, he sometimes played as a forward (a position he adapted to easily when needed). In over twelve years as a Red Wing the team won eight regular-season championships, the Stanley Cup four times and Kelly was chosen as a First Team All-Star defenceman six times. Late in the 1959 season, Kelly broke his ankle. However, the Red Wings kept the injury a secret, and Kelly played through the pain as the Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. However, midway through the next season, a reporter asked Kelly why he’d been off his game for much of 1959. Kelly replied, “Don’t know. Might have been the ankle.” When Red Wings general manager Jack Adams got wind of the story, he was furious, and immediately brokered a four-player deal in which Kelly was sent to the New York Rangers. However, Kelly scuttled the deal when he announced he would retire rather than go to New York. Maple Leafs head coach Punch Imlach stepped in and tried to talk Kelly into playing for him. Though he disliked Maple Leaf Gardens and as a young player was disappointed by the scathing assessment of that Toronto scout, Kelly agreed to be traded to the Leafs. Once Kelly arrived in Toronto, Imlach asked him to become a full-time centre, figuring that Kelly could easily match up against the Montreal Canadiens’ Jean Béliveau. The switch paid off. Already a great playmaker, Kelly turned Frank Mahovlich into one of the most lethal goal scorers in NHL history. He won his fourth Lady Byng Award in 1961. In his eight seasons with the Leafs, they won the Stanley Cup four times – the same number of times he’d won in Detroit. 1967: Kelly, right, with Frank Mahovlich and Toronto’s last Stanley Cup. In 1,316 regular season games, he scored 281 goals and 542 assists for 823 points. At the time of his retirement, he was 7th all time in career points, 5th in assists, 13th in goals, and second only to Gordie Howe in games played. In 164 playoff games, he scored 33 goals and 59 assists for 92 points.