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INSIDE THE Q: Sea Dogs’ equipment manager David ‘DK’ Kelly leaves lasting legacy

David Kelly raises the President Cup after the Saint John Sea Dogs won the 2017 QMJHL championship. - Contributed
David Kelly raises the President Cup after the Saint John Sea Dogs won the 2017 QMJHL championship. - Contributed

I didn’t know David Kelly well.

We would occasionally exchange notes on Twitter and he would sometimes help me track down players for interviews after games. Equipment managers are often the best guys for this job because the good ones run a tight ship and keep the players organized at the ground level.

It was obvious to me ‘DK’ had control of the logistics around the Saint John Sea Dogs dressing room so players did what he said, including coming to see me without fail when he told them to. He wasn’t the kind of guy whose instructions they would ignore.

Every Saint John player respected DK’s firm hand because they also knew he would do anything for them. There are hundreds of stories out there about him going the extra mile to make sure the Saint John players had everything they needed and felt supported. Just scroll the internet for a few minutes to see all the testimonials. He had a talent for making authentic connections with people.

As most who follow the QMJHL know, DK was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and met the battle head on. He stayed active with the team for as long as his health would allow — probably much longer, really, than his body could handle — and wanted others to see him fighting. If he could do it, so could they, and he spread that inspiration in what became his ‘Team DK’ campaign on social media and beyond.

Kelly also started his Monkey Band-Aid apparel campaign to raise money for the Saint John Regional Hospital oncology department’s education fund. It was amazing how many people he reached with his messages over time.

Sadly, DK succumbed to his illness late Wednesday evening but not before creating a legacy with his fierce will. He was 40 years old.

“We are all saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague David Kelly,” Sea Dogs owner and CEO Scott McCain said in a news release on Thursday. “I can assure you nobody has shown more character and courage when faced with adversity the way DK has done over the past several years. On behalf of all the Sea Dogs organization I extend our deepest sympathies to all his family. We will miss him.”

Kelly’s passing wasn’t the only devastating news from the Q this week. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada forward Alec Reid died suddenly on Sunday because of complications from epileptic seizures.

He had been receiving close treatment from doctors because of a recent escalation of his episodes and had not played since Feb. 19 because of it. Reid was only 18 years old and, as an elite hockey player, at peak physical fitness otherwise so this is a difficult one to process.

The Armada were active in his care and Reid had consulted with a neurologist prior to his passing but surely no one expected an outcome this abrupt. I’m not even going to try to articulate how devastating that must feel for everyone who was close to him. I just feel so badly for anyone impacted by this tragedy and really hope they are able to work through their grief.

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