John Kelly estimates he has done play-by-play for more than 2,300 hockey games over a 30-year broadcasting career, but he has never once called a game in the Stanley Cup Final.
That's not because he hasn't been there before - he has. Kelly worked for FOX Sports Rocky Mountain when the Colorado Avalanche won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, but because the NHL's national television partner took over broadcasting the playoff games after the first two rounds, Kelly was reduced to a spectator in the championship series.
The situation is similiar today. Kelly called the Blues' first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets on FOX Sports Midwest, but since then, games have aired exclusively on NBC and NBC Sports Network. But thanks to a generous offer from Blues' radio broadcaster Chris Kerber, Kelly will call the second period of every game in the Stanley Cup Final on KMOX 1120 AM.
"After the Blues beat the Sharks in the Western Conference Final, I was celebrating the win with my family when Chris approached me and told me he wanted me to help him broadcast the next round," Kelly told stlouisblues.com. "At first I said 'no, that's not really my place.' But then he said 'It's really not a question, I'm insisting you do it.' I was blown away. My wife and kids were blown away, too.
"It's really an unprecedented gesture," Kelly added. "I don't know of any other broadcaster that has done something like that before. I think it is beyond amazing that Chris would think of asking me to do that. I'm so grateful and appreciative."
Kerber grew up listening to Blues broadcasters as he honed his skill to become a play-by-play man himself. John's dad, the legendary Dan Kelly, was the radio and TV voice of the Blues for 21 years and eventually was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.
"When I worked for Birmingham in the ECHL, my dad sent me a cassette tape of a Blues history special that aired on KMOX during the lockout in 1994," Kerber said. "I would listen to that tape whenever I felt flat or that my broadcasting needed some work. I'd listen to how Dan Kelly, Ken Wilson and Jack Buck would capture the image of the game through the radio. After the Blues won the Western Conference Final against San Jose, I told John how that tape helped me become the broadcaster I am today and what it meant to me. It just seemed fitting with the Blues back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970 that John should be part of this. I wanted him to work all the games with me."
Dan Kelly called 16 Stanley Cup Finals, including in 1969 and 1970 when the Blues last reached the final round. It was Dan Kelly who called arguably the most famous goal in hockey history when Boston's Bobby Orr dove through the air to score a Stanley Cup-clinching goal against Glenn Hall and the St. Louis Blues in 1970.
Now, John gets to follow in his legendary father's footsteps on the biggest stage the sport has to offer.
"Just like a player, you dream of being in a championship series, and for us broadcasters, it's a great thrill to be around a team that has accomplished so much," John said. "To call a game in the Stanley Cup Final will be an amazing experience. People can't understand how excited I am and how excited my family is.
"I'll remember this for the rest of my life."