Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Gone Too Soon
As November comes to a close, the hockey world is still mourning the loss of legendary coach Pat Burns, who was taken from us way too soon after a valiant battle with cancer.
Now comes the world of another hockey legend who left us way too soon.
Professional. Honest. Classy. Family. These are just some of the adjectives that are best to describe longtime Hall Of Fame columnist Jim Kelley, who lost his fight against pancreatic cancer today. He was 61.
Kelley spent the majority of his 30+ years as a columnist for the Buffalo News, and then went on to work with Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and others. Kelley was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 2004, and is due to be enshrined in the Buffalo Sabres HOF on January 1st, 2011.
Kelley had a unique talent that is usually lost in today's dizzying sports writing world of beat writers and bloggers. Kelley was an eloquent speaker, writer, and did it all with an edge and honest approach that so many Buffalo Sabres and NHL fans around North America always appreciated.
His most 'infamous' moment (not because of his own doing) involved former goaltender Dominik Hasek during the 1996-1997 playoffs. After Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators, Hasek stated that he has a knee injury. The very next day, Kelley wrote a piece in the Buffalo News questioning his toughness, and in so many words, questioning Hasek's injury.
Hasek took a major exception to Kelley's article, and got into an ugly altercation with Kelley, berating him with words, and also pushed and shoved Jim. Subsequently, Hasek was suspended for 3 games and fined $10,000 for his actions.
What is funny is at that moment, I was annoyed with Kelley for calling out the Sabres best player. After time though, Hasek's quirky actions justified Kelley's take on the situation, at least from my vantage point. This incident teaches us a valuable lesson: Always look at the big picture when judging someone, and I was dead wrong about Jim at that time.
We can only hope as Sabres fans and NHL fans, that we are blessed to be able to read and hear another writer like Jim again. RIP Jim, and from here at the Battle Of New York, we send our condolences to the Kelley family, the Buffalo News, Buffalo Sabres, and to the NHL.
'Hockey Night in Buffalo' will never be the same without you.