Former Boston University, Colby coach Kelley passes away at 93

Jack Kelley coached both Colby and Boston University, taking both teams to national prominence during his time behind the respective benches (photo: Ashley L. Conti/Colby Athletics).

Jack Kelley, who coached Boston University to NCAA hockey championships in 1971 and 1972 before being named the first coach and general manager of the New England Whalers, has died.

Kelley was 93.

Born in Malden, Mass., Kelley starred at Belmont High before attending BU, where he led the Terriers to the NCAA finals in 1950 and 1951. He finished his playing career in 1952.

He coached at Colby for seven years beginning in 1955, going 89-51-5, and was named NCAA Coach of the Year in 1962 after leading Colby to the semifinals of the first ECAC hockey tournament at Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena).

“The term ‘legendary’ is used too often and frequently with hyperbole, but it is no exaggeration to say that Jack Kelley was a legendary coach, teacher, and friend,” said Colby president David Greene in a statement. “He was a brilliant hockey coach, but his lessons went well beyond the ice. He had a rare combination of toughness and caring that brought out the best in everyone. Many of my favorite moments at Colby have been in the Alfond Rink, watching the game with Coach Kelley and learning more about a game I love in one period than I knew in my lifetime. Just being in his presence was a special gift — it was an opportunity to see into his sparkling soul. I left every encounter with him buoyed and eager to take on a new challenge.

“Jack’s strength came from many places, but the most consistent source was his amazing wife of 67 years, Ginny, who passed away in April. Their partnership and their love for their family were legendary, too. My heart goes out to their children, Paul, David, Nancy, and Mark and their extended families.”

In 1963, Kelley returned to BU and took over as coach after Harry Cleverly resigned.

In 10 seasons at BU, Kelley led the Terriers to a 206-80-8 record. The Terriers won six Beanpot titles and played in four NCAA final fours, culminating with the 1972 squad that won the Beanpot, the ECAC, and the NCAA championship.

After the 1972 season, Kelley joined the Whalers as they began their first season in the World Hockey Association, and led them to the inaugural Avco World Trophy.

Kelley later worked in the Detroit Red Wings’ and Pittsburgh Penguins’ organizations until his retirement in 2001. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.

In 2015, Colby alumni, parents, and friends created the Jack Kelley Head Coach for Colby Men’s Hockey position in his honor. Colby’s current coach, Blaise MacDonald, is the inaugural coach to hold this title.

“It has been my honor to be the Jack Kelley Head Coach for Colby Men’s Hockey,” said MacDonald. “Kelley’s character and love of the game inspires me to continue the tradition of helping Colby student athletes be outstanding young men, both on and off the ice.

“Meeting Jack Kelley my first year at Colby was meeting one of the giants in the game, both in college and professionally. Having coached at BU for six years, I learned of his legend. His wisdom is the greatest gift I have ever received in my life. To be able to have lunch with him and talk with him weekly and at games was a treasure I am so grateful to have experienced. His love for everything Colby was extraordinary and created a desire for our team and program to be our very best.”