Dick Whitmore paid Jack Kelley the ultimate compliment when it was announced in 2016 that Kelley was going to be inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
“Jack Kelley was at the highest level in coaching, hockey administration and the personal impact on all he touched,” Whitmore, then the executive director of the hall, said.
“What he has done for ice hockey will never be duplicated,” he added.
Kelley, a legendary coach at Colby College and Boston University, died last week at 93.
The longtime resident of Oakland, who also wintered in Florida, was inducted into several other halls of fame, including those at Boston University, the World Hockey Association and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
Former Boston University hockey coach Jack Parker played for Kelley at BU and also coached under him there.
“He did so much for me,” Parker said. “He taught us work ethic and sticktoitiveness and all that stuff. That was one of his legacies. He impacted all of his players as to who they were as human beings.
“And he was one of the greatest college hockey coaches of all time,” Parker said.
Kelley was a strategic genius according to Parker, who noted that the 1971-1972 BU team he played on under Kelley scored more power-play goals that season than the opponents scored in total goals.
Parker, who is also a United States Hockey Hall of Fame coach, said 99 percent of his coaching systems were Kelley’s.
“He would break the game down in practice and tweak things,” Parker added. “He would always talk to us about forechecking systems.”
Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said he became close friends with Kelley after he took the job eight years ago. The Colby coaching position is named after Kelley.
Kelley was a regular at home games.
“We would play two games on a weekend and I would talk to him on Monday and you would think he would have spent the weekend with our coaches watching the [game] videos, the way he dissected the games. His detailed autopsy of the games was amazing,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said Kelley was intense, faithful to his principles and influential.
“He could get you to believe what he was talking about very easily,” MacDonald said
MacDonald also pointed out that Kelley often took one of his best forwards and put him on defense, telling the player he would get more ice time.
Kelley was a fiery competitor who began his coaching career at Colby in 1955 and spent seven years in Waterville. He was named the NCAA Coach of the Year in his final season, 1962, when the Mules reached the semifinals of the first ECAC hockey tournament.
He then took over at Boston University and led the Terriers to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1971 and ’72. His teams compiled a 206-80-8 record in 10 seasons there.
Kelley left to become the general manager and coach of the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association. The team won the league title and he was named the coach of the year in 1973.
He returned to Colby to coach the Mules during the 1976-1977 season and he coached his son Mark. His overall college record was 303-147-12.
Kelley then again became the GM of the Whalers before spending 1982-1993 as the director of player personnel for the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Red Wings.
Kelley moved up to the National Hockey League as the president of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1993 until 2001, when he retired.
His son David, a former hockey captain at Princeton University, is a writer-producer who has won nine primetime Emmy Awards and has been inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame. Son Mark, who has worked 32 years in NHL scouting with Chicago, Pittsburgh and the Quebec Nordiques, is in his fourth year as the vice president of amateur scouting for the Blackhawks.