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It was while growing up in Fort William during the 1950s and 60s that this multi-talented athlete developed the skills that would see him go on to enjoy a professional hockey career that spanned 1967-80 and included six seasons in the NHL. 

Advancing up through the minor ranks, he earned a coveted spot on the Fort William Canadiens Junior squad in the mid 1960s where he began developing his reputation as a rugged player. His athletic strength was also evident on the football field with the Selkirk Rams, and as the Lakehead Rugby Football Union 1966 Rookie of the Year.

Picked up by the Port Arthur Marrs in their quest for the 1967 Memorial Cup, he helped the team advance to the national junior hockey finals where his talents caught the eye of the Toronto Maple Leafs who selected the big left winger as their first choice in the 1967 NHL amateur draft, going 16th overall.

Splitting the majority of the first six seasons of his over 800 game professional hockey career between the International Hockey League (IHL) with the Port Huron Flags and Des Moines Oak Leafs and the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Reds and Rochester Americans, his aggressive style of play earned him the admiration of the fans and the nickname 'Battleship'.

Making his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues on October 10, 1973, a six player trade deal saw him finish up his 34 point rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Taking on the role of team enforcer, his defence of line-mate Pierre Larouche is credited with helping the young star set scoring records, with his own effective slap-shop and offensive talents also contributing to the team's success. Scoring 60 goals and assisting on 75 others during his three full seasons with the Pens, he lead the team in points during their 1975 playoff run with 5 goals and 3 assists in 9 games.

Picked up by Chicago as a free agent in 1977, he finished up his NHL career with the Blackhawks following the 1978-79 season leaving behind an NHL regular season record of 425 games played, 87 goals and 109 assists. Following his professional career, he gave back to the game as a coach, spending time passing on his knowledge in the ECHL and to young players at New Trier High School, where he led their varsity team to the 1983 Chicago Metropolitan City and Illinois state championship titles.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 30th, 2017

Bob "Battleship" Kelly

Fort William/Thunder Bay
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