Sunday, June 10, 2007

Battleship Kelly

Just to really complicate things, there were two Bob Kellys playing in the National Hockey League during the 1970s. And both were near identical players - pugnacious left wingers known more for their fighting skills and corner work than their finesse abilities.

As a result of their identical names and style, each player quickly became known by their nickname. Bob "Hound Dog" Kelly was a feared checker with the Philadelphia Flyers where he won a couple of Stanley Cups. Robert "Battleship" Kelly, the subject of this profile, spent as much time in the minors as he did in the NHL, but put together a nice string of 425 games from 1973 through 1979 with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Battleship Kelly was best known as Penguin, where he played 3 1/2 seasons of his 6 season NHL career. Bigger than the other Kelly, Battleship was probably the better fighter of the two. In fact several of the NHL's top tough guys would rank the 6'2" 195lb Fort William Ontario native among the best of the goonish 1970s.

"He's also a decent winger" said Pens GM Jack Button at the time of his acquisition from St. Louis. The Blues were looking to beef up their team by adding Kelly and Steve Durbano, but Kelly was more than just a fighter.

After netting 16 goals in his rookie season split between the Blues and Pens, Kelly nicely found the twine 27 times in his second year. Add 24 assists and 120 well earned PIM, and the Penguins had found themselves a nice player. He bettered his offense to 55 points in year 3, including 25 goals, while upping his PIM to 149.

Kelly took a step backwards in 1976-77. His ice time was reduced, as was his offensive role. He was able to tally just 10 times, with 21 assists. He remained effective if not offensive, and he continued to play solidly at both ends of the rink, posting a career high +13.

Kelly became a free agent at the conclusion of that season, and opted to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks were a pretty weak team at that time, and Kelly couldn't help them at all. He suffered through two poor seasons, scoring just 9 times in 138 games as a Hawk.

After briefly keeping his career alive in the minors, Battleship Kelly hung up the skates during the 1979-80 season.

15 comments:

HockeyAunt said...

If only he would have had the opportunity to play with Mario Lemieux he'd have been an all star. I've never seen a better fighter on skates and would have loved to seen him in a skills competition. He may have topped Al Iafrate's hardest shot mark. I remember my dad taking me to the games and Kelly was my favorite.

penaltykiller9 said...

Whenever the Rangers played against Mr Kelly the Rangers announcer Bill Chadwick would warn the viewers that the Rangers had to be on guard whenever "Shipwreck" Kelly was on the ice.

Anonymous said...

You should have been at the Civic Arena the night Pittsburgh played Cleveland (W.H.A.) in an exhibition game. After Steve Durbano cause a ruckus, Battleship Kelly took on two Clevenland players at center ice. His arm were so long he was able to twist the jersey on both Cleveland players until they were ready to pass out. Thanks for the memories Bob.

Anonymous said...

My buddy George and I made a bedsheet banner reading "The Flyers have a Hammer, the Flyers have a Moose, but we've got a Battleship to keep 'em all loose". The ushers stopped us from walking it past the large Philly contingent at the Igloo. We loved Bob "Battleship" Kelly. Richard Tudor, Saxonburg,PA

Anonymous said...

Anchors Aweigh! The organist @ the Civic Arena would play the Navy theme whenever J. Bob hit the ice. Same era as Colin Campbell - the NHL Penalty Czar - was a goon of supreme skill -- he body slammed Schultz in Pgh. one night!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh yes. Vince Lescheid at the Arena Organ playing "Anchors Aweigh" after a Battleship goal or fight. He was a power forward before there was formally such a thing. If he had played 10-15 years later, we'd be comparing him to Cam Neely or Kevin Stevens. He was a force. Although he had decent offensive skills, very good defensive skills, and THE hardest slapshot I have ever seen, he was always classified as a "goon", or at least "tough guy". Did he ever lose a fight? :)

Doobie said...

"The Battleship"? What can I say? If you all remember. he skated on the line with "Lucky Pierre" LaRouche. Way ahead of his time. Had he skated with Mario or Sid Crosby, he would easily be an inductee into the Hall of Fame because he probably would have scored 40 every year. As you can imagine this: how much more freedom would Mario, or Sid,have had with the "The Battleship" keeping all the flies away? Wish he were with us now.

Sincerely,

Been following PGH Hockey since we were the Hornets.

Anonymous said...

Battleship was the best hockey fighter I have ever seen. Never has a player had more room on the ice. My favorite Battleship moment was when he used a slapshot to score from the top of the slot on a breakaway.

Anonymous said...

I met him while he was playing for the Providence Reds.He might have been scary on the ice.But you couldn't have met a nicer person off the ice.

Anonymous said...

I was at the game in January 1974 when "Battleship" Kelly and Steve Durbano played their first game in a Pen's uniform. They had just be traded to Pittsburgh from the Blues and who do they play their first game in Pittsburgh? .... The St Louis Blues!! Those 2 cleaned up the ice with the Plager brothers and Bob Gassoff...all 3 heavyweights from the Blues.

Anonymous said...

Many may remember him as a player. After he retired he found his way to head coach at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL where he coached the Varsity green squad from 1982-1988. I had the pleasure of playing for him from 1985-87. He was a great coach and person. Took us to the state finals. He then moved out east and worked in the hotel business.

bob allaire said...

He was a frend when I worked at webber chevy in r.i I would go over to his house in granitville r.i. i hope he a gets this message.hope he contacts m allaire 2012 @gmail.com.livr in ri and del ray beach,miss you.bob allaire

Patricia Kowal said...

I worked for the Pens when I was a wee lass. Bob Kelly would come in the office wearing skin-tight jeans over the longest legs I had ever seen! LOL!! He always got a kick out of making me uncomfortable! I had a huge crush on goalie Gary Inness and was heart-broken when he was traded. Bob, a true softy, went down to the locker room and "lifted" the goalie's stick and jersey for me. I will always have a special place in my heart for this legendary "tough guy"! If anyone can update me on where Bob ended up after the severed hand ended his career, please drop me a line: pakowal007@gmail.com

Todd Stupp said...

I was in 1st or 2nd grade in Elmhurst, Illinois in the same school with his Daughter at the time. We were doing some mach newspaper reporting stories, and being avid Hawks fans, Bob agreed to an interview with me (which my Father wrote all the questions for). Will never forget it. He met me at the school yard with my "voice recorder" in hand. And what a nice guy!! Would have never thought of him as the "Enforcer" at the time!!
Bob, if you're in touch with this by chance, drop me and the Old Man a line if you can? todd.stupp@usairways.com

Unknown said...

My God me too he was awesome

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