Red Kelly. Photo provided by the Detroit Red Wings/Twitter.

Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly dies at 91

An NHL player well-known to both Detroit and Toronto fans has passed away.

The Detroit Red Wings confirmed Thursday afternoon that Red Kelly, who played for both the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs in a 21-season career, died at the age of 91.

The Kelly family issued a statement through the Red Wings.

“Red was a devoted husband and caring father and grandfather and was tremendously proud of his many hockey accomplishments,” the statement read. “He was very moved by decades of love and support from Red Wings fans and was humbled to have his jersey retired earlier this year.”

Red Wings vice-president and general manager Steve Yzerman said Kelly reinvented the role of an NHL defenceman.

“Red Kelly was one of the most dominant players in the history of the game,” said Yzerman. “He truly redefined how people viewed the defence position, and how it was played for decades to come. Being a former captain of the Red Wings during an era that featured numerous Hall of Famers demonstrates how well-respected he was within the organization, which is a sentiment that I know is still true today. Red was a great man and the hockey world will sorely miss him. The Red Wings organization would like to offer its deepest sympathies to Red’s friends and family.”

The Maple Leafs also joined the hockey world in mourning Thursday.

“For those of us who were lucky enough to have known or encountered Red, we will all miss his sharp mind and keen intellect,” said Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. “He was a gentleman but a fierce competitor. Above all, he was a family man, and he will be missed by his hockey family. Our deepest sympathies go out to Andra, their children, grandchildren and the entire Kelly family.”

Born in Simcoe, Ontario in 1927, Kelly was originally courted by the Leafs as a teenager, but Toronto passed on him. He signed with Detroit in 1947 and played with them through 1959-1960. During that season, he reluctantly agreed to a trade to Toronto, still upset by the Leafs rejecting him as a teenager. He played for Toronto until his retirement in 1967.

Kelly won four Stanley Cups apiece with Toronto and Detroit, more than any player who has not played for the Montreal Canadiens. Kelly later served as the Liberal MP for York West from 1962 to 1965 while still playing for the Leafs. He also coached the Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Leafs.

Kelly was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969. The Leafs retired Kelly’s #4 in 2016, and the Wings followed suit earlier this year.

Arrangements for Kelly have not been worked out.

Trading card photo of Red Kelly with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Photo from Wikipedia/Public Domain.