Bob “Battleship” Kelly didn’t merely say those words. He lived them.
Kelly played in the NHL from 1973-79 and for the Penguins from 1974-77. The 6-foot-2 left wing remains the best fighter I ever saw. Kelly threw fast, threw heavy and was fearless.
Kelly’s career high for penalty minutes in a season was 149, a low number for such an accomplished fighter. But there’s a good explanation: Most were reluctant to fight Kelly.
That included the aforementioned "Broad Street Bullies": The Philadelphia Flyers' goon-squad “champions” in 1974 and ’75. Bill Clement, later a network TV analyst, played for those Flyers. He once told me, “If you were on the rink at Pittsburgh and heard that song, you looked around and thought, ‘Oh, ***t.’ ”
“That song” was “Anchors Aweigh.” Legendary Civic Arena organist Vince Lascheid played a rollicking version whenever Kelly took the ice. It served warning.
Kelly could play, too: He netted 27 goals for the Penguins in 1974-75 and 25 more in ‘75-76.
The 1974-75 Penguins led the New York Islanders three games to none in the playoff quarterfinals, then dropped four straight and were eliminated. They were due to play the Flyers in the semifinals. Kelly candidly told me in an interview years later that he felt the Penguins collapsed because a lot of his teammates were afraid to play the Flyers.
Kelly wasn’t. Nothing scared the “Battleship.”
Surprisingly little footage of Kelly fighting exists, but check out the samples below. It was like fighting a machine gun.
Kelly is 74. I’m absolutely certain he could still kick your ass.
Thumbnail via Getty Images