Inside the NHL: Ten years after his death, this will always be Jim Kelley’s space

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Buffalo News hockey columnist Jim Kelley, right, speaks with Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe at a Hockey Hall of Fame luncheon in Toronto in 2004 in honor of Kelley’s selection as the Elmer Ferguson Award winner.

Jim Kelley, right, takes a moment with Sabres captain Michael Peca during the 2000 playoffs in Philadelphia.

Mike Harrington

Hello, boys.

That salute, often combined with a devilish grin, was the greeting we got all the time when Jim Kelley walked into the sports department of The Buffalo News.

Monday marks 10 years since we lost him at the much-too-young age of 61. The NHL is still trying to figure out what shape its 2021 season might be in – and Kelley would undoubtedly prefer this space focus on that topic – but I’m going to instead use this edition for Kelley stories.

This is forever Kelley’s space. He created this column. I’m just its current keeper. Let’s start with a big tale of his integrity.

In 2010 for the Sabres’ 40th anniversary, The News surveyed current and former staff members to determine the top 40 players in franchise history. There were 13 voters and I had 12 sets of votes submitted. The only one missing was Kelley’s, and he was in the throes of treatment for pancreatic cancer.

I didn’t want to bother him for the ballot, but we needed it. The reason? Gilbert Perreault…

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