He acquired a bronze medal at the 2001 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Russia and a silver a year later in Sweden. It would only be fitting that Mike Kelly complete his collection this year at home, in Canada.
The 2003 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is being held in Nova Scotia. The small, province on the East Coast of Canada is all too familiar to Kelly. His hometown of Shamrock, Prince Edward Island is just across the water, a hop, skip and a jump away from Halifax and Sydney, the two host Maritime cities.
His wife, Mary Ellen and their three young sons, Jared, Ryan and Connor will be joining him in Halifax on December 26 and will be more than ready to cheer Dad on. "I’ve been away for the past two Christmases so this year it’s a little more special, my family will get to be involved."
From 1998-2002 Kelly found himself as General Manager and Head Coach of the North Bay Centennials of the Ontario Hockey League. After his team was sold and moved to Saginaw Michigan, he returned home to Prince Edward Island and began his third year with Team Canada. For the first several months he had been contributing behind the scenes, scouting in the QMJHL and in Europe. He has since joined the Team Canada hopefuls in Halifax for the Evaluation Camp.
His extensive and impressive coaching career spans several years and different leagues. As Head Coach of the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds from 1996-1998, Kelly led his team to national glory and was named the CIAU Coach-of-the-Year. His credits also include General Manager and Head Coach of the North Bay Centennials and Head Coach of the Windsor Spitfires both of the Ontario Hockey League. He also spent one season as the Assistant Coach of the American Hockey League’s PEI Senators. Although each league plays host to players of different ages and abilities, he maintains that "the game is the same. The difference between coaching in those leagues and coaching the National Junior Team is that the Team Canada players are generally more focused. They have either already been drafted high or are expected to be drafted high in the future."
Kelly has another accomplishment to add to his already long list. When he was named to the team on May 31st of this year, he became the only person in the history of the National Junior Team Program to serve as an assistant coach in three consecutive years. With this accomplishment, he also became only the second coach to serve as an assistant coach in three different years. Sherry Bassin was an assistant coach for the 1982, 19 National Junior Teams.
As a coach, Kelly feels that it is his job to continue to recognize talent. "We have to allow the players to play their games offensively. Defense is important as well but Canada is beginning to reclaim its title of being a nation known for skilled players. It’s important to let those skills shine and develop."
In his coaching role with the National Junior Team, Kelly draws from his own experience as a player. Although he played five years of University hockey at the University of New Brunswick, the two years that he played in Europe is what really helps him. "To have played in, and experienced another culture is helpful. Culture influences the way a team plays and the ideas it has about the game."
Kelly is optimistic about Team Canada and has great confidence in the abilities of its players. "I agree with what Wayne Gretzky said in regard to the selection of the Olympic team. We will choose the best players available; we will have a team full of talent."
Mike Kelly has only one color missing from his World Junior medal collection. . . Gold. If there is such a thing as fate, Kelly seems destined to realize it. He’s at home, with his family and friends and has progressively worked his way up from Bronze to Silver. It seems only natural that the next step be international glory. Someone once said that "the third time’s a charm," well this is Kelly’s third stab at gold, perhaps he will be charmed.