Colby mourns the loss of celebrated hockey coach John Jack Kelley, who died on September 16, 2020 in Oakland, Maine, at the age of 93. the lives of hundreds of players.
The term legendary is too often and often used with exaggeration, said 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 way beyond the ice. He had a rare combination of toughness and care that brought out the best in everyone. Many of my favorite moments with Colby were on the Alfond Rink, watching the game with Coach Kelley, and learning more about a game I love in a period of time than I knew in my lifetime. Just being in his presence was a special gift, it was an opportunity to look into his sparkling soul. I left every meeting with him cheerful and eager to take on a new challenge.
Jack’s strength came from many places, but the most consistent source was his wonderful wife of 67, Ginny, who passed away in April. Their partnership and love for their family were also legendary. My heart goes out to their children, Paul 79, David, DFA 19, Nancy and Mark 80, and their extended families.
Coach Jack Kelley is welcomed on November 23, 2019, for the final game of Colby vs. Bowdoin at the Alfond Athletics Center skating rink.
From 1955 to 1962, Kelley coached Colby’s men’s hockey team, which set a record of 89-51-5. With a 16-1 record, the Mules dominated the Colby-Bowdoin rivalry during that time. Colby earned the lead in the ECAC standings in 1962 with a 17-1 record. After the 1961-62 season, Kelley left for his alma mater, Boston University, then returned to Colby to coach for the 1976-77 season. That year, the young Colbys team defeated Division I Northeastern for the 300th victory in Kelleys’ career.
In 2015, dozens of college alumni, parents and friends came together to create the Jack Kelley head coach for the Colby Mens Hockey position in his honor. Colby’s current coach, Blaise MacDonald, is the inaugural coach to hold this title.
It was an honor for me to be Colby Mens Hockey’s Jack Kelley head coach, MacDonald said. Kelley’s character and love for the game inspire me to continue the tradition of helping Colby student athletes to be excellent young men both on and off the ice.
Meeting Jack Kelley My freshman year at Colby was a meeting with one of the giants in the game, both in college and professionally. After six years of coaching at BU, I heard about his legend. His wisdom is the greatest gift I have ever received in my life. Being able to have lunch with him and talk to him weekly and at competitions was a treasure I am so grateful to have experienced this one. His love for all of Colby was extraordinary and created the wish that our team and program would be our very best.
Kelley’s 1955 arrival in Colby coincided with the beginning of the Colleges of what became a long history of peer hockey with the opening of the Alfond Rink the result of a generous donation by the late Harold Alfond. On the ice rink, Colby was also able to organize the very first intercollegiate competition for women, against Pembroke (Brown University).
At BU, Kelley won national titles in 1971 and 1972. He formed the New England Whalers in the new World Hockey Association, and the team became the first winner of the Avco World Trophy competitions. Kelley joined the Detroit Red Wings organization and became president of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993, the same year he was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame.
Kelley was a standout as a high school student in Belmont, Massachusetts, and was named Boston’s best schoolboy. 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 professional record was 77-55-6.
In 2015, Jack ONeil 77, a captain of the 1976-77 team, said Jack Kelley was much more than a coach. He pushed us to improve our game, both personally and as an athlete.
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