‘Red’s a great am­bas­sador’

Kelly one of many sym­bols of leafs’ long con­nec­tion to mil­i­tary

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - SPORTS - Joshua Clip­per­ton

TORONTO — red Kelly did his part to sup­port Cana­dian forces over­seas dur­ing the sec­ond World War by work­ing on the fam­ily farm when he wasn’t play­ing hockey.

Just 12 years old when hos­til­i­ties broke out in 1939, Kelly won­ders to this day what might have been had the con­flict stretched be­yond 1945.

“We got a plaque for con­tribut­ing to the war with the food,” the 91-year-old hall of Famer re­called. “i was too young (to fight).

“if it had gone on an­other year or two, it might have been dif­fer­ent.”

Kelly, whose Nhl ca­reer started in 1947 and stretched 20 sea­sons with the red Wings and maple leafs, later travelled to visit sol­diers serv­ing in the Korean War, even pro­vid­ing an in-per­son film nar­ra­tion of one of detroit’s stan­ley Cup vic­to­ries.

“i spent some time with them,” Kelly said. “sleep­ing in the tents out there — five blan­kets over top of you and four un­der­neath — it got pretty cold at night.”

Traded to Toronto dur­ing the 1959-60 cam­paign, Kelly joined a group of fel­low alumni and cur­rent play­ers at the city’s sun­ny­brook vet­er­ans Cen­tre this week ahead of sun­day’s re­mem­brance day that will mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War.

The de­fence­man/cen­tre, for­mer coach and mem­ber of Par­lia­ment even re­con­nected with a Korean War vet at sun­ny­brook who re­mem­bered his visit to see the troops.

Kelly sat with vets in wheelchairs and their fam­i­lies, signed

I spent some time with them. Sleep­ing in the tents out there — five blan­kets over top of you and four un­der­neath — it got pretty cold at night.” Red Kelly, re­mem­ber­ing a visit to sol­diers fight­ing in the Korean War

au­to­graphs, told sto­ries and posed for pic­tures.

“it’s fab­u­lous to see all these peo­ple,” said the eight-time Cup win­ner from sim­coe, ont. “(What) they did for you dur­ing the war, they fought for your coun­try, they went through all kinds of con­di­tions.

“i got to see some of it, but i didn’t have to go through it.”

some of Toronto’s cur­rent play­ers mar­velled that Kelly still makes time to visit vet­er­ans.

“he’s a leg­end,” winger Con­nor brown said. “he was my grandpa’s favourite. it’s pretty cool. For him to give his time at 91 is pretty spe­cial.”

While many pro­fes­sional sports teams visit hos­pi­tals and hold mil­i­tary ap­pre­ci­a­tion nights, the leafs’ his­tory with the armed ser­vices stretches back to the fran­chise’s early days.

Conn smythe bought the club in 1927 and changed its name from the st. Pa­tricks to the maple leafs as a nod to his First World War reg­i­ment’s in­signia.

“i heard that story a few years ago and found it pretty re­mark­able,” Toronto cen­tre Nazem Kadri said. “it just goes to show you the tra­di­tion of the Toronto maple leafs and the con­nec­tion with mil­i­tary and that re­la­tion­ship they’ve had.”

smythe, who served as coach un­til 1931 and gen­eral man­ager un­til 1957, en­listed again in the sec­ond World War in his mid40s, but was wounded and even­tu­ally sent home on a hospi­tal ship.

“Conn smythe was the ul­ti­mate monar­chist,” Toronto his­to­rian Paul Patskou said. “We served in two World Wars. he made sure that his play­ers also en­listed in one way or an­other.

“he took care of the sol­diers af­ter the war. Just an amaz­ing man.”

hall of Fame goalie Johnny bower, who died last de­cem­ber at 93, lied about his age and en­listed at just 16 to fight in the sec­ond World War be­fore his ca­reer with the leafs even got started, while cen­tre syl apps put his play­ing days on hold to serve — just two ex­am­ples of the Toronto play­ers and fel­low Nh­lers that signed up.

The leafs and their alumni were at sun­ny­brook to help with “oper­a­tion raise a Flag,” which en­cour­ages mes­sages of thanks and do­na­tions to sup­port the 475 vet­er­ans liv­ing at the fa­cil­ity.

“They’ve made a lot of sac­ri­fices for us to be able to live freely,” Kadri said. “you start to un­der­stand as time goes on not to take life for granted. it’s an op­por­tu­nity for us to come out and show our re­spect.”

“The tra­di­tion has al­ways moved for­ward,” for­mer leafs star darryl sit­tler added. “i re­spect those guys that fought in the First World War and the sec­ond World War where they left the game to go fight for their coun­try.

“The re­spect and the ap­pre­ci­a­tion, it’s im­por­tant to keep it go­ing.”

and like the play­ers cur­rently wear­ing blue and white for Toronto, the 68-year-old sit­tler is blown away by Kelly’s con­tin­ued pres­ence at these events.

“red’s a great am­bas­sador,” he said. “i watched red as a player, had him as a coach, watched him as a politi­cian and as man of in­tegrity in the com­mu­nity.

“We can all learn from peo­ple like him.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS fIlES

Maple Leafs great Leonard (Red) Kelly was a teenager dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Kelly did his part to sup­port Cana­dian forces over­seas by work­ing on the fam­ily farm when he wasn’t play­ing hockey. “We got a plaque for con­tribut­ing to the war with the food,” the 91-year-old Hall of Famer re­calls. “I was too young (to fight).”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.