ECHL Commissioner Emeritus Patrick J. Kelly has been named as one of two recipients of the 2016 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
The award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, was presented to the National Hockey League by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport’s development.
Kelly, along with co-recipient and Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Howe, will be honored as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Philadelphia. Ticket information is available at www.ushockeyhalloffame.com.
“Few people have touched the lives of as many fans, players, coaches and officials over the past 60 years as Mr. Kelly,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “This is a fitting tribute in recognition of his work in hockey over the past 60-plus years in this country. He has been, and continues to be, a terrific ambassador, not just for the ECHL, but hockey in general.”
“As the Lester Patrick Award observes its 50th anniversary and the National Hockey League prepares to celebrate its Centennial, we are extremely pleased that Mark Howe and Pat Kelly are receiving this recognition for their decades of devotion to hockey in the United States,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Mark Howe, the youngest hockey player ever to win an Olympic medal prior to his Hall of Fame professional career, joins his legendary father, Gordie, as a Lester Patrick honoree. Pat Kelly attained success at all levels of the sport and pioneered the growth of hockey’s popularity in the South. The NHL family sends congratulations and thanks to both for their contributions to our game.”
Kelly was named Commissioner Emeritus of the ECHL following the 1995-96 season after serving as Commissioner for the first eight seasons of the League. The ECHL named its championship trophy in his honor prior to the 1996-97 season, and he presents the Kelly Cup to the winning team each season. Kelly was inducted as part of the inaugural class of the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008.
Kelly celebrates his 64th season in hockey in 2016-17 having begun his career with the St. Catherine Tee Pees of the Ontario Junior Hockey League in 1952. He played professionally for the Trois Rivieres Lions in the Quebec League, the Troy Bruins of the International Hockey League and the Greensboro Generals, Jersey Devils and Clinton Comets of the Eastern Hockey League. He helped Crowland capture the 1948-49 Bantam B Championship of Ontario, beating Peterborough in the finals.
He began his head-coaching career in the Eastern Hockey League, beginning with the Jersey Devils in 1964-65 and later with the Clinton (New York) Comets from 1965-73, serving as a player/coach for both clubs. Clinton was 151-39-28 under Kelly’s leadership and won three straight regular-season and postseason titles from 1968-70. In 1967-68, the Comets finished with a 57-5-10 record, making them the only professional team in history to lose only five games or less in a season, and in 1969-70, Kelly was named Minor League Coach of the Year by The Hockey News as the Comets captured their third consecutive title. Kelly served as head coach and general manager for Charlotte in the Southern Hockey League from 1973-76 guiding the Checkers to a 136-68-12 record, two regular-season titles and two postseason titles while earning Coach of the Year honors in the SHL twice.
He coached the Colorado Rockies in the National Hockey League in 1977-78 and is the only coach in history to lead the Rockies into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Following coaching stops in Rochester and Binghamton of the American Hockey League, Kelly went to Peoria in the International Hockey League where he led the Rivermen to the Turner Cup championship in 1984-85, his sixth title as a head coach, while also receiving the Commissioners’ Trophy as IHL Coach of the Year. He recorded his 800th career win on Jan. 4, 1987 and was inducted into the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in February of 1990. Kelly was inducted into the Roanoke Hall of Fame and the Sports Hall of Fame in his hometown of Welland, Ontario in 1998, in March of 2002 he became the first inductee into the Greensboro Hockey Hall of Fame when the Generals retired his uniform number (5) and in June 2010, he was inducted into the Greater Utica (N.Y.) Sports Hall of Fame.
About the ECHL
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province for its 29th season in 2016-17. There have been 599 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their career in the ECHL, including 30 who made their NHL debuts in the 2015-16 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams in 2016-17, marking the 20th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.