By Patrick Donnelly
Legendary coach of the Boston University men’s ice hockey team Jack Kelley, who led the program to its first two national titles in 1971 and 1972, has passed away, BU Athletics confirmed. He was 93.
After standing out at Belmont High School, the Malden, Mass., native continued to set himself apart as a defenseman during his career at BU. While playing with the Terriers, Kelley was recognized as an All-East defenseman, earned Team MVP in 1952, and was part of the program’s first two teams to appear in the NCAA tournament in 1950 and 1951. Kelley also suited up for the United States’ national team during his time as a blueliner on Comm. Ave before graduating with the Class of 1952 as the program’s all time leading scorer among defensemen at the time.
Kelley went on to coach Colby College from 1955 to 1962. In that seven-year span, the bench boss compiled a record of 89-15-5, and led the team to the semifinals of the inaugural ECAC tournament in 162, earning NCAA Coach of the Year honors. Kelley became the first coach of a “small” college to earn the distinction.
Following his time behind the bench at Colby, Kelley returned to his alma mater in 1962 for an illustrious ten-season run as head coach, succeeding Harry Cleverly. As coach of the Terriers, he amassed a winning percentage of .720 and a record of 206-80-8, directing the team to six Beanpot titles, four Frozen Four appearances, two national championships, and one ECAC title. In 1972, under Kelley’s watch, the Terriers swept the Beanpot, ECAC tournament, and national tournament.
“An incredible mentor whose fingerprints on BU hockey will last forever,” BU Men’s Hockey said in a statement via Twitter. “Our thoughts are with his family as we look back and cherish the time we all had with Coach Kelley.”
“A Boston University legend has passed away at the age of 93,” BU Athletics said on Twitter. “Jack Kelley ’52 made an immeasurable impact on the BU community and led @TerrierHockey to its first two NCAA titles (1971 & 1972) before a distinguished career in professional hockey. Rest in peace, Coach.”
After the 1972 season, Kelley became the head coach and general manager of the World Hockey Association’s (WHA’s) New England Whalers ahead of their inaugural season. He led the team to a 46-30-2 record, first place in the division, and the first Avco World Trophy, defeating the Winnpeg Jets in the finals.
He resigned as coach of the Whalers in 1975 before briefly returning to Colby as head coach for one season. After his second stint with Colby, Kelley returned as general manager of the Whalers until 1981.
Kelley went on to work within the Detroit Red Wings organization as the Director of Player Personnel for the Adirondack Red Wings from 1982 to 1993. He then served as President of the Pittsburgh Penguins until he retired in 2001.
In 1993, Kelley was selected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame after being inducted to the BU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1973. He was also an inaugural inductee to the World Hockey Hall of Fame under the coaches category in 2010.