November 19, 2015
Just to really complicate things, there were two Bob Kellys playing in the National Hockey League during the 1970s. And both were near identical players - pugnacious left wingers known more for their fighting skills and corner work than their finesse abilities.
As a result of their identical names and style, each player quickly became known by their nickname. Bob "Hound Dog" Kelly was a feared checker with the Philadelphia Flyers where he won a couple of Stanley Cups. Robert "Battleship" Kelly, the subject of this profile, spent as much time in the minors as he did in the NHL, but put together a nice string of 425 games from 1973 through 1979 with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
Battleship Kelly was best known as Penguin, where he played 3 1/2 seasons of his 6 season NHL career. Bigger than the other Kelly, Battleship was probably the better fighter of the two. In fact several of the NHL's top tough guys would rank the 6'2" 195lb Fort William Ontario native among the best of the goonish 1970s.
"He's also a decent winger" said Pens GM Jack Button at the time of his acquisition from St. Louis. The Blues were looking to beef up their team by adding Kelly and Steve Durbano, but Kelly was more than just a fighter.
After netting 16 goals in his rookie season split between the Blues and Pens, Kelly nicely found the twine 27 times in his second year. Add 24 assists and 120 well earned PIM, and the Penguins had found themselves a nice player. He bettered his offense to 55 points in year 3, including 25 goals, while upping his PIM to 149.
Kelly took a step backwards in 1976-77. His ice time was reduced, as was his offensive role. He was able to tally just 10 times, with 21 assists. He remained effective if not offensive, and he continued to play solidly at both ends of the rink, posting a career high +13.
Kelly became a free agent at the conclusion of that season, and opted to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks were a pretty weak team at that time, and Kelly couldn't help them at all. He suffered through two poor seasons, scoring just 9 times in 138 games as a Hawk.
After briefly keeping his career alive in the minors, Battleship Kelly hung up the skates during the 1979-80 season.