Red Kelly showed the world a man could play professional sports at a high level, and at the same time, play clean.
From his days in the old Mason Arena in a newly-formed church league, Red Kelly showed a desire to get the most out of his skills as a youth interested in sports.
Kelly played other sports as a young man, but it was hockey that took him to St. Michael’s College in Toronto for junior hockey and an education. He caught the eye of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, becoming a key factor in their domination of the league in the late 1940s and early 1950s as the team won several league titles and four Stanley Cups. Kelly was a trail blazer for future defencemen as he showed how blue-liners could become a key part of a team’s offence.
Later, Kelly went to the Toronto Maple Leaves and was converted into a centreman. He won four more Stanley Cups as a Maple Leaf.
Kelly won the Lady Byng award for clean play four times and excelled at his defensive position with eight All-Star nominations. He also won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman.
After his playing career, Kelly mentored several NHL teams in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Toronto. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.
At one time, Kelly represented York West as a Member of Parliament while still playing for the Maple Leafs.
Among his crowning achievements is his demonstration that an athlete could play well and play hard and still play with honour.