Terry Kelly

Terry Kelly (Oshawa)

Terence Vincent Kelly
Born: May 28, 1931 (Toronto)
Died: January 17, 2015

Member: Oshawa (Ont.) Sports Hall of Fame (1995)

Terry Kelly was an Ontario lawyer whose extraordinary fundraising skills contributed to the building of the Oshawa Civic Centre in 1964 and the Bowmanville Recreation Complex in 1988.

The Hambly Arena in Oshawa burned down on Sept. 15, 1953, forcing the dissolution of the Oshawa Generals junior hockey team. The team was revived in 1962 and moved into the new arena in 1964. A defenceman for the Generals in the first game was a 16-year-old from Parry Sound, Ont., named Bobby Orr.

A gregarious and popular figure in sporting circles, Kelly was a director Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. from 1991-97, as well of the Oshawa Generals junior hockey team. He was a governor of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and was founding chairman of the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame into which he was inducted in 1995. He was president both of the Ontario Soccer Association and the National Lacrosse Association.

Born in Toronto, he was raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he graduated from Saint Malachy’s College. He earned his law degree at the University of New Brunswick and was called to the bar in 1954. A decade later, he was named Queen’s Counsel. His law practice in Oshawa, Ont., is now named Kelly Greenway Bruce. He retired in 2013.

While at university, Kelly played on the varsity soccer team and served as president of the Amateur Athletic Association. He was pressed into service in one memorable hockey playoff game as an emergency goaltender replacement. He surrendered three goals to St. Thomas in one period for a goals-against average of 9.00.

Terry Kelly (TorStar pic)

Lawyer and ‘Superfan’ Terry Kelly was ‘world’s No. 1 sports nut’

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
February 17, 2015

One weekend in 1949, a hitchhiking student stopped in Montreal, where, on a lark, he took in professional hockey, football, and baseball games within 24 hours.

The student continued on to the University of New Brunswick, where he would graduate with a law degree at age 21, be called to the Ontario bar at age 22, and be named Queen’s Counsel at age 33. For all his accomplishments as a criminal lawyer, including the prosecution of drug cases, Terry Kelly was better known by a nickname he gained on the sports pages — Superfan.

Armed with sporting schedules which he matched against train and plane schedules, Kelly abandoned the staid and decorous courtroom for the noisy and coarse playpen of the grandstand.

An ebullient, garrulous man with a florid face, a ready smile and a hearty “Where ya from?” when meeting strangers, Kelly could be found at all manner of sporting event. He sought games of grand spectacle, especially during soccer’s World Cup tournament, but would happily buy tickets to a junior-B hockey game featuring teenagers too young to shave if the match promised drama.

His quest, as he once told Jim Kernaghan of the Toronto Star, who gave him his nickname, was “electricity, a build-up of things that make a game important.”

He chased the buzzing atmosphere of a keen sporting match over oceans and across continents, more often than not arriving at even the most in-demand events without a ticket, the pursuit of an elusive pasteboard at a bargain price part of the allure. The writer Roy MacGregor, who once profiled him in The Canadian magazine, called him “the world’s No. 1 sports nut.”

Kelly once attended four NHL games in three days (Buffalo on a Friday, Philadelphia on Saturday, Boston on a Sunday afternoon and New York on Sunday evening) and four major league baseball games on a long weekend (in St. Louis and Kansas City followed by a doubleheader in Chicago). In Barcelona, he once caught a noontime soccer game, an afternoon Davis Cup tennis match and a post-siesta bullfight before completing the day with an evening soccer game.

In 1972, as recorded by Kernaghan, he managed to attend parts of five Scottish soccer matches in a single day — for the record, Hamilton Academical vs. Queen of the South; Airdrie-Aberdeen; Clyde-Partick Thistle; Rangers-Falkirk; and, finally, the final few minutes of Celtic-Morton at Greenock.

No event was too far afield from Kelly’s home base in Oshawa, Ont. He attended soccer games in Iceland, as well as on the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

He attended 11 consecutive World Cup tournaments, a quadrennial extravaganza for which he travelled to England (1966), Mexico (1970), West Germany (1974), Argentina (1978), Spain (1982), Mexico again (1986), Italy (1990), the United States (1994), France (1998), Japan (2002) and Germany again (2006).

A 2006 World Cup match between Togo and South Korea, unlikely rivals, stood out in memory for thrills, although earlier he had been impressed by a 1970 World Cup semifinal between Italy and West Germany, he once told Kernaghan. “There were 114,000 fans in Mexico’s Azteca Stadium for the greatest game of any kind I’ve ever seen. Italy won, 4-3, in overtime in the most electric match I’ve ever seen.”

The statement is all the more remarkable for Kelly having also attended hockey’s 1972 Summit Series, including Paul Henderson’s series-winning goal with 34 seconds left in the final game in Moscow.

Terence Vincent Kelly was born in Toronto on May 28, 1931. His twin brother was named John. Their immigrant parents, Beatrice Edna (née Nicholson), known as Bea, and John Joseph Kelly, known as J.J. or Jack, struggled to support the boys, who were sent at age three to be raised by paternal grandparents in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The new home was adjacent to the athletic fields of Queen’s University, so the boy grew up watching rugby, cricket, soccer, and track and field, as well as the native sports of hurling and Gaelic football. He attended St. Malachy’s College, a Catholic grammar school founded in 1833 whose motto is Gloria ab Intus (Glory from within), before returning at age 16 to join his parents in Saint John, N.B., where he completed high school.

He was a champion debater at the University of New Brunswick, where he also played for the soccer team under the guidance of athletic director Pete Kelly (no relation), a former National Hockey League forward who had twice won the Stanley Cup. Young Kelly made the junior varsity hockey team as a backup goaltender, a roster spot won by determination, as growing up in Belfast had not been the best background for a budding puckster. Once, while watching a hockey game against St. Thomas as a student spectator, he was called out of the stands and pressed into duty as an emergency goalie for the Varsity Reds, giving up three goals in one period of work.

His odyssey in search of sporting thrills also involved serendipity. One of the first hockey games he attended at Maple Leaf Gardens was a debacle for the Leafs (some things never change) after which out-of-shape goaltender Turk Broda was ordered to lose weight in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The first pro baseball game he witnessed, a minor-league game in Toronto, featured a no-hitter. On July 26, 1952, he attended his first major league baseball game. In the top of the first inning at Briggs (later Tiger) Stadium in Detroit, with bases loaded, a sophomore sensation with the New York Yankees hit a long, towering shot into the upper left-field grandstand. It was Mickey Mantle’s first grand slam. (He would hit 10 in his storied career, including one in the 1953 World Series.)

Mantle also figured in Kelly’s first World Series game. On Oct. 10, 1964, the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees were deadlocked 1-1 in the third game of the best-of-seven series. Mantle settled the game with a walk-off home run in the ninth inning.

Kelly owned NHL season tickets in Toronto and Buffalo, as well as Tiger-Cats tickets for Canadian Football League games at old Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. He did not buy season tickets for the nearby Toronto Argonauts football team, as he did not care for Exhibition Stadium nor for the atmosphere to be found there. He also eschewed several sports, including rodeo, motorsports and horse racing.

In 1958, he married Jacqueline Michaud, the daughter of Joseph Michaud, a prominent New Brunswick judge who had served as Canada’s wartime transport minister. A longtime Liberal supporter and money-raiser, Kelly parried many entreaties to run for office until 1984, when he contested the federal riding of Oshawa at an inauspicious time for his party. He finished a distant third with 18 per cent of the vote in a race won by incumbent Ed Broadbent, the popular NDP leader.

Kelly had a long history of service to sports and charities. When Ontario premier John Robarts presented him with an achievement award in 1966, Kelly was active on the governing bodies of nine sports. He was a founding director of the Oshawa Green Gaels lacrosse club, president of the Ontario Soccer Federation, and a founder of the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 1995. He was a director of the Toronto Maple Leafs (and was named an executor of the will of controversial owner Harold Ballard). He also chaired the selection committee of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

One of his great achievements was to lead a fundraising project to replace Oshawa’s Hambly Arena, which was destroyed by fire in 1953. About $1.3 million was raised to build Civic Auditorium in 1964, much of it from workers at local plants who kicked in 40 cents per week in deductions from their paycheques. A tenant for the 3,625-seat arena was the Oshawa Generals junior hockey team, whose star player, 16-year-old defenceman Bobby Orr, scored in the opening game.

The lawyer later spearheaded another campaign to build an adjoining recreational centre. The main outdoor stadium was named for him at a ceremony last year.

Kelly died at his Toronto home in his sleep of heart failure on Jan. 17. He leaves his wife, Sylvia; a son, Tim Kelly, of Richmond Hill, Ont., a newspaper reporter, and a daughter, Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly, of Toronto, from his first marriage; and, three grandchildren. He was predeceased by his twin brother, John, who died in 1998, at 67, and by his first wife, Jacqueline, who died in 2007.

The 1949 weekend that inspired his life’s wanderlust for sporting thrills had several memorable moments, though some were not readily apparent. The teenaged Kelly witnessed Royal Copeland scoring a touchdown as the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Montreal Alouettes by 29-14. He also saw Sam Jethroe swat a two-run home run as baseball’s Montreal Royals defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 7-2. At the Forum, he saw the hockey Canadiens tie their Buffalo farm team, 3-3, in a pre-season exhibition game in which a young Jacques Plante, 20, first played for the Canadiens, a team with which he would win six Stanley Cups.


One thought on “Terry Kelly

  1. Damn, looks like I’m not going to see my Furman Bisher collection, With a Southern Exposure, back from the Kelly estate. Lent it to him in ’94.

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