The idea of DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation was born when the DAWGs lost a dear friend. The team shared the love of the game and the love of their friend Jack. Following more tragedy for the DAWGs team within a week’s time, the foundational five became the inspiration and drive to start DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation.
#21 – Jack Kelly
Jack was an original member of Dawg Nation until his tragic passing in April of 2010. He was only 53 years old and left behind his wife Kathie and three daughters.
The best way to understand what Jack meant to our group would be to read a tribute written and delivered by our leader, “The Dawgfather” Marty Richardson.
A Tribute to a Friend and Teammate — by Marty Richardson
Hi, my name is Martin “Cappy” Richardson. I’m here today to speak on behalf of Dawg Nation. What is Dawg Nation, you may ask? Lately, I’ve gotten that question a lot. Dawg Nation started as a men’s hockey team in Littleton but has grown into much, much more. Dawg Nation is, in one word, “family.” We’re friends; we’re teammates; we’re brothers. Last week, our family lost a teammate, a brother, a friend… an incredible friend.
Jack will be laid to rest in his Dawgs sweater. What an honor. What an honor to all of us in Dawg Nation. It shows what the Dawgs meant to Jack and what Jack meant to the Dawgs.
The news about Jack was devastating to all of us. Last Thursday, a group of us met at a local bar to share our “Jack” stories and just be together. A friend mentioned to me that I should order Jack a beer and place it in front of an empty chair. I loved the idea, so I did just that; when I got to the bar, I ordered Jack’s favorite, ice cold Molson. One for me and one for my buddy. The waiter returned a moment later and informed me there was only one Molson left in the entire bar. Can you believe that? One Molson left… By the way, Jack got that last Molson.
Jack and I met a few years back during a hockey drop-in session at the Edge Ice Arena. That was the start of something special. I was on the lookout for quality players and quality people to fill out our roster. From the moment I met Jack, I could see he was both. At the time, we only had one team, and I tapped him for that. A few months later, Jack and I decided to build a second Dawgs team, and Dawgs II was born… Dawg Nation was born.
Anyone that knows me, knows I like to give our guys goofy nicknames. Jack got one as well. Jack “Machine Gun” Kelly. The Machine Gun set a standard of excellence for anyone donning a Dawgs sweater.
Jack and I had an easy friendship. We were matched on so many levels. We’re both intensely competitive, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As we got to know each other, we realized that we were both college soccer players, we were both businessmen, we both loved hockey, we both had three daughters, our oldest daughters were even the same age. But most importantly, we shared the same passion for life. Conversation was easy as we always had plenty to talk about. We chatted about life, sports, family, politics, and business. We met monthly for a lunch. I’m going to miss those lunches.
There was a real ease and a comfort in those conversations. That was never more evident than just six weeks ago. I was awarded the incredible honor of representing Dawg Nation in the presentation of a collective gift from our club to the Kelly family. It’s an evening that I’ll never forget. I was in the Kellys’ living room with Jack, Kathie, and several other family members. We shared hugs, tears, laughs, and memories. At the end of the night, I was able to spend some one on one time with my buddy. We didn’t say much, we didn’t have to, we just enjoyed each other’s company. As we watched an Avs game, I put my hand over his and we enjoyed that time together as only two old friends can.
Jack was special to me and everyone else on so many levels. He exemplified everything that a friend and a teammate should be. We should all strive to be a “Jack.”
I’d like to share a few recent stories with you. Stories that many of you don’t know but will help you understand what Jack was all about. Jack was a proud man but never boastful, he lived through example, and what an example that was.
During Jack’s first hospital stay, I received a call from him. He asked me to stop by on my way home from work and bring my laptop. I followed his request, but I had no idea what he was up to. It turns out he decided to have custom hoodies made for the team; this would be his Christmas present to the guys. I tried to split the cost with him, but he wouldn’t let me. We sat in his hospital room and designed them right there. Now think about that, this is guy that is going through the toughest time of his life, and his biggest concern was his teammates. Who does that? Jack “Machine Gun” Kelly does, that’s who. The hoodies turned out terrific, and I had the honor to stand by Jack’s side as he handed them out on December 23. An incredible night.
Another “Jack” moment came a couple of years ago. I was having lunch with Jack and shared that I was going to be hiking four fourteeners on the upcoming weekend. The hike was near Breckenridge, and he instantly offered the use of his home in Breck. I declined, but he insisted. Mind you, I was doing this hike with several friends of mine that Jack had never met. Not only did he offer a place to sleep, he showed up on Friday night with steaks, twice baked potatoes, and several bottles of wine. Folks, Jack didn’t even know these guys. Of course, everyone was blown away, but I wasn’t. To me, that was just my friend Jack.
Let me share a bit about “Jack, the hockey player.” He was a gifted skater and a competitive player. Jack prided himself on the art of the face-off. He and I often shared tips and strategies in regard to taking a draw. He knew exactly how many draws he’d won or lost each night. I was equally obsessed in that part of the game, and we both privately claimed to be the best on the team when it came to winning that key face-off.
This past August, we were in the championship game and clinging to a precarious 2-1 lead. A whistle stopped play with only fifteen seconds left. There was a timeout, and I gathered the team. I naturally assigned myself to win that key face-off, and believe me, this was a key face-off. As our huddle broke, Jack stopped me and said, “Marty, let me take the draw.” That’s when my competitive side kicked in, and I said, “okay, but you better win the flippin’ draw,” but I didn’t say “flippin.” That’s when Jack’s competitive juices kicked in, and he replied, “I’ll win the flippin’ draw,” but he didn’t say “flippin.” We skated out and took our positions. The referee dropped the puck, and guess what? Jack won that flippin’ draw. The puck went back to one of our defensemen and was cleared down the ice. The final seconds ticked off, and we began jumping around like little kids on Christmas morning. Naturally, one of the first guys to embrace me was none other than Jack. He winked at me and said, “Marty, we just won the flippin’ Cup,” but he didn’t say “flippin.”
Dawg Nation has recently gone through some incredible highs and some incredible lows. On one of my last visits to Jack, I said, “what do you think about a motto for our club?” He agreed it was a good idea, so we started working on it. We shared a couple of laughs as we came up with some r-rated versions, but we really wanted something that would be meaningful and lasting. Something that would exemplify what we’re all about. By now, most of you know what we came up with, but I’ll share it anyway.
Be modest in victory
Be gracious in defeat
Jack and I both thought that was perfect. To me, it was something to strive for. But when I think of Jack, it was something he already was. After that, I told him I was going to add the new motto to all my Dawg emails. The next time I saw Jack, I asked if he’d noticed the motto on my messages. He had, and he told me the first time he saw it, it made him smile. The second time he saw it, it made him proud.
Be modest in victory
Be gracious in defeat
Next time you see that, say that, hear that, think about your teammate, your friend, your brother… Jack “Machine Gun” Kelly.
Rest in peace my friend.
Danny has been a Dawg his entire adult life and has been lacin’ em up for the black, red, and white since age 17. He’s played several Dawgs teams and may be the most enthusiastic player in Dawgs history. No matter what team he plays on, Danny shows up every night ready to play like his hair is on fire. He skates every shift as if it was his last, and you would have to look hard to find a better teammate.
He also is one of the few players that brings fans along to the games. His wife, Amber, can easily be heard in the stands (very, very easily), and his dad Rob, who is a Dawg Nation board member and nicknamed “Superfan,” rarely misses a game.
In 2009, Danny found a cyst under his chin, and when it was removed, doctors discovered that he had thyroid cancer. Though highly treatable, he has had to undergo four procedures, including removing the thyroid and many of his lymph nodes. In 2010, he was even injected with radioactive material, a unique thyroid treatment that kills the tumor without poisoning the rest of his body. He had to be quarantined for a lengthy period but never gave up hope that the radioactivity might turn him into some kind of superhero.
You would think that having a potentially deadly disease would take away a guy’s sense of humor. Well, in this case, you would be wrong. Danny has been incredibly upbeat during the entire ordeal, even making jokes in the locker room about getting extra romantic “favors” from Amber because, you know, it could be their “last time.” Only a hockey player could be morbid enough to make light of such a serious situation.
Danny is now back on the ice, going at warp speed every shift. Through his entire ordeal, he knew that he could always count on the members of Dawg Nation to help him through the tough times.
Dennis has played forward for both Dawgs I and Dawgs II squads. He is one of the senior members of Dawg Nation, graduating from Pomona High School in 1976. For two seasons, he had the unique pleasure of playing on the same line as his son Michael, who joined the team in 2009 as soon as he turned 18.
Dennis works in the dairy business, and every Christmas season, it has become a tradition for him to bring bottles of eggnog instead of the traditional beer for the gathering in the parking lot after the game. There are rumors that some extra ingredients get added to the nog by some players, but that has never been confirmed.
During the spring of 2010, Dennis crashed feet-first into the boards at South Suburban Ice Arena. He shattered his ankle in many places, resulting in surgical reconstruction of the area. During that surgery, Dennis contracted an infection and was forced to go through multiple surgeries to save his leg. These procedures kept Dennis on crutches for an extended length of time and ended Dennis’s hockey career. The rehabilitation process was long and formidable, but Dennis’ courage and strength allowed him to battle through it.
While playing hockey may not be possible in the future, just walking and living a normal life is a blessing. The one thing he will be able to know for sure is that Dawg Nation is behind him every step of the way.
Dave has skated with the Dawgs since their inception in 2002. In 2010, his son Matt joined The Nation as well. Now each week, Dave gets to live every dad’s dream — skating on the same line with his kid. A hockey coach for many seasons, Dave may know the game better than anyone in the organization. He always seems to be in the right spot during play and is quick to cover for a teammate who may have gotten out of position, which is pretty much everyone else on the team.
In December of 2007, during a routine checkup, Dave was discovered with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery and immediately got to work to ensure a full and complete recovery. It must have worked- Dave was back climbing mountains and playing hockey by the summer of 2008.
During his recovery period, he could always count on the strength of his second family, the members of Dawg Nation. He said in a recent article, “We are absolutely a family. They supported me the way a family member, a band of brothers would”. It’s been several years, and Dave is still cancer free. He now patrols the ice every Monday and Thursday night as a part of Dawgs II and the Old Dawgs.
Andy has one of the longest tenures of any Dawg player – he has been with the organization since 2003. He skates at forward on Dawgs II and has played a key role on several championship squads. In fact, he is the Dawgs’ all-time leading playoff scorer and has come through in the clutch in many postseason games. Andy is from Boston and a huge fan of the sports teams from that area. When the Boston Red Sox played the Colorado Rockies in the World Series in 2007, he wore his Sox gear into the Dawgs locker room and rubbed it in mightily as his team won in a four game sweep.
When Andy first joined the team, he was assigned the task of bringing beer for the postgame get-together in the parking lot. When they all met at his vehicle, the Dawgs discovered that this big, tough hockey player drove a minivan, and he caught no end of grief from the entire crew. Since then, he has been known as Andy “Minivan” Gerrie. These days, he only brings the “mom-mobile” to the games as a last resort.
Andy works in the aerospace industry, where he is involved in designing navigational software for satellites. One could say that he is as close to a “rocket scientist” as there is in Dawg Nation. However, the combined IQ for the rest of the teams in The Nation is approximately 114, so being a smart guy in this group is a lot like being a pretty girl in Wyoming. It doesn’t take much to stand out.
In 2008, Andy was diagnosed with colon cancer. After surgery and six grueling months of chemotherapy, he was back playing at full strength, and hoped that all of the illness was behind him.
However, in late 2009, there were signs that the cancer reappeared, but Andy fought it off once again! As always, he knows no matter how many times he has to battle, every member of Dawg Nation will be right there with him, helping him beat the damn thing one more time.
Play Hard. Play Fair. Give Back.™
The DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for people with and without disabilities to gain confidence and independence through participation in national and international amateur ice hockey events, as well as to supporting local, national, and international amateur ice hockey players and their families during times of crisis. Since its inception DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation has been able to give out millions of dollars to positively impact the lives of many families in need. Do you part to assist the hockey community by volunteering, donating, or sponsoring one of our events or individuals.