The expectations for Jody Shelley are no different than that of any other team that brings in any other player. Well, sort of. Sure, the primary reason a team brings anyone is to put up numbers. And for 12 National Hockey League seasons, Shelley has done just that. At least on the right side of the scoresheet, anyway.
The personable 36-year-old has registered over 1,500 penalty minutes during stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers and his current home, the Philadelphia Flyers.
During last season’s playoffs, the former Johnstown Chiefs forward sat down with ECHL.com and discussed his road to the NHL, stint in the ECHL and much, much more.
Mike Ashmore, ECHL.com: You spent your first pro season in the AHL with St. John, and ended up being with Johnstown for the majority of your second year. Was it tough to accept moving down a level initially?
Jody Shelley: "I signed a two-way, AHL/ECHL contract, and I thought I’d be in the American League. I left school, and I didn’t know how it worked. The next thing I knew, I found myself in Johnstown in the (ECHL), and that really wasn’t on the docket, that wasn’t my plan.
Then I realized that there were a lot of guys there, like second-round draft picks, guys that were even in more shock. For me, it turned into an opportunity pretty quick. These guys were going up to the American League and getting their chance to play and show what they were doing, and some of them even went up to the NHL. Initially, yeah it was a bit of a shock, but it turned into an opportunity pretty quick."
ECHL.com: You spent parts of two seasons with the Chiefs, somehow racking up 581 penalty minutes in 88 games…that’s quite a feat. Do you have any specific memories of your time there?
Shelley: "I remember a line brawl with the Dayton Bombers. I think it was pretty much the whole team that was fighting. The crowd in Johnstown loved that stuff. The bus rides, I think back to some of those things and what we did and the group of guys we had. We all lived together and hung out all the time, so it was really a lot of fun. The one thing I remember is you spent a lot of time on the ice. It wasn’t like South Carolina or Florida, where you had the beaches, we just kind of hung out on the ice for a long time and worked on our game. Luckily, the coach there, Scotty Allen, spent a lot of time with guys who wanted to work. And there was a bunch of us. But everything was hockey, and it was a perfect fit for me. I really enjoyed it."
ECHL.com: Did your time in Johnstown kind of help you refine the role you’d go on to play in the NHL down the road?
Shelley: "Well, I learned that in junior. I was a big guy who had to play big, and I attracted attention with the way I played. That turned into guys wanting to pair off with you, so that’s how it graduated into that. But definitely, I was that guy in Johnstown. That was my role, and I enjoyed it. There were a lot of guys who did it before me, Garrett Burnett and guys like that who’d done it well. Those guys get talked about, so I figured it would be a good way to get some attention, have some fun and get some ice time."
ECHL.com: How far away from the NHL did you feel when you were down there?
Shelley: "So far. At first, you feel really far away. But for me, I started in a training camp. I was in Calgary at their camp, so when you get down there, you feel really removed. You know there’s so many guys in the American League and there’s so many guys in the (ECHL) ahead of you. But, you quickly realize that the guy sitting next to you is sitting next to you today, but tomorrow, he’s going to be playing in the American League. And the guy sitting next to him in the American League is playing in the NHL all in the same breath. So it’s a pretty quick chain there. Initially, you feel far away and you feel removed and you feel like an afterthought, a forgotten piece of the organization. But once you realize draft picks are being watched and scouts are around, I took it as an opportunity, and I think a lot of guys do. If you decide to play pro hockey in the (ECHL), you can make some dollars, but you really have to give it everything you’ve got. That’s putting your eggs in one basket and trying to go for it.
ECHL.com: To get to the NHL like you did just one season after playing in Johnstown, how gratifying was that?
Shelley: "It was amazing. I fell into a really lucky situation with Syracuse and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they believed in me as an American League enforcer, and I embraced that. That led me to the NHL. A hole opened up in Columbus, and I got my one game to go up and play against the guy that left. I played that one game, did my thing and left my mark. I couldn’t have written it any better, and I couldn’t have planned it, either. There was no way to plan how it happened. But I’m really proud of it, I’m really proud that I played with Johnstown, played in the (ECHL). I was undrafted and all that stuff, but I got lucky with my coaches and my opportunities and how they spent time with me."
ECHL.com: If you only ever got that one game, would you have been happy?
Shelley: "Yes. Not satisfied, but happy. I left school for the American League my first year, and I gave up a scholarship. When I did that, my mom was devastated because she’s a teacher. But then, I left mainly because the guys I played against in junior; Peter Worrell, Georges Laraque, they were in the NHL. And I was like, ‘I can’t do this, I’ve got to give it a show.’ And that’s when I found out that the (ECHL) was my best opportunity to find out how to be a pro and how much work you really need to put in to play pro hockey and maybe get a shot at the next level, and the maybe the next level after that."
ECHL.com: You’ve had the opportunity to play in a handful of games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past few years…any fondest memories of those experiences?
Shelley: "The one thing I remember about the playoffs is just the intensity in every shift. As a player on the bench or a player on the ice, you sit there and think about the shift, and then when you get out there, you’re so excited you’re just flying around out there.
Just the whole thing about the playoffs, how it’s ratcheted up, it’s really an amazing thing."
ECHL.com: So how tough then is it to be in the role you’re in now, where enforcers are often pushed to the side this time of year?
Shelley: "It’s kind of tough, but I’ve been doing this all year. It’s something that I’ve embraced and it’s something that I enjoy. We have a young group, and we have a great lineup. Just to be a part of it daily and try to be a positive influence and have a positive attitude, and whatever I can bring to the table every day, I think it’s important."