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A RED JUST LEFT OF CENTER
Arlie W. Schardt
December 03, 1962
As a rookie lawmaker Leonard Kelly (above) is a liberal, but on the ice he is the conservative playmaker who gave Toronto a Stanley Cup
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December 03, 1962

A Red Just Left Of Center

As a rookie lawmaker Leonard Kelly (above) is a liberal, but on the ice he is the conservative playmaker who gave Toronto a Stanley Cup

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Toronto liked it too. The Leafs grew even stronger the next year as Kelly fed long, daring passes to a brilliant but brooding young prodigy named Frank Mahovlich who, up to then, had failed to live up to his early promise. Under Kelly's influence Mahovlich's goal production rose from a 1960 total of 18 to 48 in 1961. Mahovlich went on to become the only big-league athlete worth an official $1 million at the auction block, but it was Kelly who was voted the team's most valuable player. One year later, Toronto finally regained that long-awaited Stanley Cup as Kelly, one of those largely responsible, set a career high of 22 goals scored and a personal low of only six minutes spent in the penalty box. "If you lose your temper while the puck's in play, you only give your opponents an easy chance to score," he says, explaining a philosophy that has long since established him as one of the cleanest players in the game.

Red Kelly speaks softly but with much warmth, while his playing style is so economical it almost looks lazy. He circles smoothly, ready to swoop into the play at precisely the right instant. He unfailingly draws a rising roar from the crowd when he rushes the puck across the blue line into a pack of waiting opponents. A scramble follows, like clothes flying around in a washing machine, and out pops Kelly on the other side with everyone after him.

"Kelly is the best soccer player on ice," says Imlach. "By that I mean he can tie up the other guy's stick while he dances the puck free with his skates and takes off. That's why he's so good in the corners. He uses his body like a wall to keep the others back."

Red Kelly is also a man who can find great pleasure in the discovery that a peacock feather "has beautiful, bright colors on one side, but it's completely dull on the other," and whose fondest moments occur when his 2-year-old daughter lovingly piles her blanket, her book, her doll and herself under his covers while he takes an afternoon nap before a game. His new job, representing York West's 90,000-odd voters in Parliament, leaves little time for such enjoyments. Since September, when Parliament convened, Red has been commuting several times a week by plane between Toronto and Ottawa.

The tourist-class fare for the 55-minute flight is $38 round trip, leading one newsman to compute that Trans-Canada Air Lines will collect between $6,000 and $9,000 of Kelly's $10,000 parliamentary income by the time Parliament adjourns next spring. (He gets $8,000 in salary, $2,000 in expenses.) But Red is not upset. "I understand they might give me a free trip for Christmas," he grins. Besides, he can still count on $19,000 or so in pay and bonuses from the Maple Leafs.

Kelly does not waste any nervous energy fretting about his difficult schedule. "I don't worry about it," he said one morning last week. "If I make it, I make it. If I don't, I don't." He was seated on his bench in the Leafs' dressing room, resting after a hard morning practice before flying to Ottawa, and pondering whether his parliamentary work would keep him there overnight or allow him to catch the late plane home. His wide features softened and the boyish look returned as he slowly transformed himself from a dripping athlete into a smartly dressed legislator in a neat brown suit, black challis tie and gray Burberry topcoat. He picked up his only luggage, a thin, brown attach� case with the initials R K on the side. "Some people think I should use L for Leonard now, but what the hey," says Red, coming as close to profanity as he ever does, "I've been Red all my life and I'm no different now than I was before."

This unaffected quality as much as his sporting appeal made Kelly attractive to politicians looking for a strong candidate. But when a longtime friend first asked him to stand for Parliament, Kelly turned him down. "Then I began to think of how often we all complain about how badly things are being run, but never do anything about it," says Red, "so I thought maybe I should try."

The Liberals asked Kelly to run in York West, although he lives in another riding (district), a practice that is common in Canada and Britain. His opponent was the incumbent, a Conservative lawyer named John B. Hamilton who had won the office by a solid 19,000 votes in 1958.

"They didn't really expect Kelly'd win," says one York West voter. "They mainly figured he'd help the other candidates draw big crowds." Still, the Liberals gave Kelly all the necessary campaign funds and a solid organization. "They told me frankly that I might not win," he says, "but I never go into anything with that attitude."

The campaign began in the midst of all the elation and excitement over the Stanley Cup, but Kelly had no time for basking in glory. For 45 straight days he was out of his house before 8 a.m., rarely getting back before the family was asleep. "We took to writing notes," explains his wife, Andra, a pretty redhead who formerly appeared in the Hollywood Ice Revue.

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