RED WINGS MOURN THE PASSING OF RED KELLY
The Detroit Red Wings are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Leonard “Red” Kelly, who passed away on Thursday morning at the age of 91.
“Red Kelly was one of the most accomplished players in the history of the Detroit Red Wings, a tremendously impactful figure to the game of hockey, and a wonderful person and family man,” said Red Wings Governor, President and CEO Christopher Ilitch. “I would like to extend our most sincere condolences, on behalf of Marian Ilitch and the entire Red Wings family, to his wife, Andra, and all of his family and friends. Red was a true hockey legend and had the remarkable distinction of being considered one of the best at his position as both a defenseman and a forward during his career. His on-ice achievements speak for themselves, between eight Stanley Cup championships and his collection of league awards and honors. Beyond that, he was a gracious and humble person, and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
Kelly spent 13 seasons with the Red Wings, and in 2018-19 he became just the eighth individual to have his jersey retired by the organization, as his No. 4 sweater was raised to the rafters prior to the game on Feb. 1 vs. Toronto, where he spent the final eight seasons of his decorated career. A 1969 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Kelly won eight total Stanley Cup championships with Detroit and Toronto (four with each), making him one of only seven players in National Hockey League history to have won six-or-more Stanley Cups, and the only one to do so without ever playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Kelly was also unique in having success as both a forward and a defenseman, as he spent the first half of his career on the Red Wings blueline from 1947-60 before switching to center full-time when he played for the Maple Leafs from 1959-67.
Born on July 9, 1927 in Simcoe, Ontario, Kelly was originally signed at age 19 by the Red Wings after he was noticed by a Detroit scout while attending St. Michael’s College School in Toronto in 1946. Kelly led the team to a 1947 Memorial Cup championship as the top team in Canadian major junior hockey, before advancing directly to the NHL for the 1947-48 season without spending any time in the minor leagues. In 1949-50, Kelly became just the third defenseman in Red Wings history to reach double-digit goals, repeating the feat each season until 1958-59. Kelly led the league’s defensemen in goals and points for five-straight seasons from 1949-55 and led Red Wings defensemen in points for nine-consecutive years from 1949-58. Kelly was the first-ever recipient of the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s top defenseman following the 1953-54 campaign.
“Red Kelly was one of the most dominant players in the history of the game,” said Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman. “He truly redefined how people viewed the defense position, and how it was played for decades to come. Being a former captain of the Red Wings during an era that featured numerous Hall of Famers demonstrates how well-respected he was within the organization, which is a sentiment that I know is still true today. Red was a great man and the hockey world will sorely miss him. The Red Wings organization would like to offer its deepest sympathies to Red’s friends and family.”
Kelly contributed to a prolific Red Wings offense that included the likes of Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay at forward and was part of a dynasty which captured Stanley Cup championships in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955. Kelly also served as the Red Wings’ captain in his final two seasons with the team from 1956-58. He was named to the postseason NHL All-Star Team in eight-straight seasons, making the First All-Star Team from 1951-55 and 1957 and the Second All-Star Team in 1950 and 1956. His numerous accomplishments also featured four Lady Byng Trophies in 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1961 for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, and he finished in the top-five in Hart Memorial Trophy voting as the league’s most-valuable player in four seasons during his time with Detroit. He produced 472 points (162-310-472) in 846 games with Detroit and totaled 823 points (281-542-823) in 1,316 career NHL games.
Kelly went on to appear in eight seasons with the Maple Leafs and saw his offensive numbers increase after a switch from defenseman to forward. He produced three-straight 20-goal seasons and added four more Stanley Cup championships in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967, ultimately ending his career with 12 appearances in the Stanley Cup Final. He began a decade-long career as a head coach upon retiring with the Los Angeles Kings (1967-69), Pittsburgh Penguins (1969-73) and Maple Leafs (1973-77), and he saw his teams qualify for the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons. Away from the ice, Kelly was elected a federal member of Parliament in 1962 and served in Canada’s legislature for three years while still playing for the Maple Leafs, splitting time between Toronto and Ottawa throughout the season.
Kelly is survived by his wife of 60 years, Andra, and their four children and eight grandchildren.
MAPLE LEAFS MOURN THE LOSS OF LEGEND RED KELLY
The Toronto Maple Leafs are deeply saddened today to learn of the passing of Leonard Patrick ‘Red’ Kelly. Red played eight seasons for the Maple Leafs, winning the Stanley Cup four times, after famously signing with the club after 13 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was also a member of four Stanley Cup winning teams.
“The entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization mourns the passing of Red Kelly,” said Toronto Maple Leafs President & Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan. “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 gentle man 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.”
In 1960, after winning a Norris Trophy, four Stanley Cups and becoming the highest scoring defenceman in NHL history, Red joined the Maple Leafs and moved to centre. At that position, he led the club in playoff scoring for the decade and won four more Stanley Cups. What made Red’s achievements on the ice even more remarkable, was that he accomplished all of this while serving three years in the House of Commons.
Following his playing career, Red would return to coach the Leafs for four seasons in the 1970’s, making the playoffs each year. An honoured member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and also named as one of the NHL’s ‘100 Greatest Players’, Red had his banner raised to the rafters on Opening Night 2006, and received a statue on Legends Row in 2017.
A proud man, Red would often say, “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.”
STATEMENT FROM THE KELLY FAMILY
Hockey legend Red Kelly passed away this morning in Toronto at the age of 91. Red was a devoted husband and caring father and grandfather and was tremendously proud of his many hockey accomplishments. He was very moved by decades of love and support from Red Wings fans and was humbled to have his jersey retired earlier this year. We are comforted in knowing that he impacted so many people both at and away from the rink and know that his life will be celebrated. Arrangements will be announced once they are finalized.
Commissioner Bettman Statement on the Passing of Red Kelly
National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman today released the following statement regarding the passing of Red Kelly:
“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Leonard ‘Red’ Kelly – a man whose hockey career is so storied and distinguished that it may never be duplicated. The favorite son of Simcoe won eight Stanley Cups – four each with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Red was cut from his prep school hockey team but was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame shortly after he played his last NHL game.
“It is no surprise that Red was a fan favorite at the NHL’s Centennial Celebration in 2017, when he endeared himself to an entirely new generation of hockey fans. I was in awe at the reverence and respect today’s players had for him – even though they may have never seen him take the ice.
“Red was the ultimate hockey renaissance man who seemingly could do it all. The inaugural winner of the Norris Trophy, Red won his first four Stanley Cups as one of the League’s best defensemen and his next four as a forward. He was a champion boxer during his school days at St. Michael’s College, yet he won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly conduct on the ice four times. For three years, he was simultaneously a player for the Maple Leafs and a member of the Canadian Parliament.
“A six-time First Team All-Star and two-time Second Team All-Star, Red finished his playing career with 281 goals, 542 assists and 1,316 games played. After a career on the ice with two Original Six clubs, Red headed west and embraced the expansion Los Angeles Kings as their first head coach – taking them to the playoffs twice. He also led the Pittsburgh Penguins and Maple Leafs behind the bench. Red Kelly was a hockey legend in every sense and his impact on the game will last forever.
“For all of his professional success, Red often said the greatest joys in his life came from his family – especially his wife, Andra, who was his lifelong partner. We send our deepest condolences to the entire Kelly family, as the hockey world mourns the loss of one of the greatest players and men that the game has ever known.”