Since it formed in 1917, the National Hockey League® had seen many teams come and go. In 1942, the disbanding of the Brooklyn (formerly New York) Americans brought the number of teams to six. The Boston Bruins®, Chicago Black Hawks®, Detroit Red Wings®, Montreal Canadiens®, New York Rangers® and Toronto Maple Leafs® would become known as the Original Six™ teams, and remained stable opponents for a quarter century until the NHL® doubled in size in 1967.
In this quarter century, lasting legends were born. Toronto and Montréal built hockey dynasties: the Leafs won the Stanley Cup® nine times, the last time in 1967; the Canadiens won 10, including five consecutive titles between 1956 and 1960.
These were the golden years of the players on bubble-gum scented cards in every schoolboy’s pocket – Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr, Jacques Plante, and so many others. As television sets replaced radios, Foster Hewitt brought games to life on Hockey Night in Canada in English-speaking homes with the expression “He shoots ... he scores!” In French Canada, “Et c’est le but!” became a familiar expression thanks to René Lecavalier, the host of La Soirée du hockey.
When fans of the Original Six era called for “-DEE-fence, DEE-fence,” their wish was answered by six Canadian superstars who are featured in our 2014 issue of Original Six defencemen: Tim Horton, Doug Harvey, Bobby Orr, Harry Howell, Pierre Pilote and Red Kelly. Their story – and that of the six teams in what some call the greatest hockey era ever – is told through these stamps.
With this special issue, imagine yourself in the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens or the storied Montreal Forum. Picture your seat in Chicago’s “Madhouse on Madison,” Detroit’s “Old Red Barn,” or New York’s Madison Square Garden. Dream of watching Bobby Orr score a championship-winning goal at the Boston “Gahden.” These six blue-line heroes take to the ice again as we present another chapter of the history of the NHL.
Hailing from Simcoe, Ontario, Red Kelly was considered a gentleman – a reputation that would earn him the Lady Byng Trophy four times in the NHL. He could nonetheless take care of himself on the ice. Years of boxing at St. Michael’s College proved his toughness.
Kelly was invited to Detroit’s training camp and started with the Red Wings for the 1947-48 season where he played with superstars like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel. A key member of the Red Wings, Kelly helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955.
During his 20-year career, Kelly proved his versatility. He succeeded as a defenceman with the Red Wings, earning the inaugural Norris Trophy in 1954. Then, in 1959, he moved to the Toronto Maple Leafs to play as a centre for eight successful years. Kelly – along with teammates Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, Andy Bathgate, and Tim Horton – brought home four more Stanley Cup victories for the Leafs. After retiring as a player, Kelly returned to successfully coach NHL hockey.