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Kelly Embracing New Role as Player Development Coordinator

2011 Stanley Cup champion is thrilled to be back in Boston

by Laney Byler @NHLBruins /

BUFFALO - Chris Kelly's family is happy to be back in Boston.

It's been a few years since the Kelly clan last called the city home. But now, after being named the Bruins' new Player Development Coordinator in July, Kelly and his family are able to settle back down in and live in the same place as they did during his Black & Gold playing days.

"Same neighborhood," Kelly said Monday morning as he talked with reporters following the conclusion of the Prospects Challenge. "My wife really enjoyed Boston and so did I, so it just made the most sense, [to] be back in Boston.

"You forget how much you enjoy the city until you're back, and it's a great city. My wife and my three kids are really happy to be back. Two of them were born in Boston."

Kelly's last stint in the area came in 2015-16, when he finished his sixth season with Boston and fifth as an assistant captain. His career with the B's was certainly colorful, highlighted by a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 and 101 career points with the organization.

After his last season in Boston, Kelly returned to the Ottawa Senators - where he had played his first seven NHL seasons - suiting up for all 82 games in 2016-17. The following season, he headed down to Belleville to play with the Senators' AHL affiliate - an experience that, if you ask him now, actually ended up teaching him a lot about his new job working with prospects.

"It's just forming relationships and trust," Kelly said. "Trust is a big thing. If they don't trust you, it doesn't matter what you say to them. And knowing how to deal with them. I think, two years ago - things happen for a reason, I'm a firm believer of that - and going down and playing in Belleville in the American League, it was 14 years between me being there.

"But just playing with them, getting to know them, getting to be around them. The younger generation, they're a bit different than maybe when I was coming in. I'm sure the older players were saying that about my generation. It's just knowing how to interact with them and get the most out of them."

Kelly didn't always know what role he would end up in, but when he realized it was time to start looking at other opportunities, he considered a developmental role while in Ottawa.

"To be honest, when you're playing, you're so selfish," Kelly said. "You're so caught up in playing, you don't think of anything else except for that almost survival mode, that you're just trying to survive the play. Kind of my last year, after I played with Ottawa and then I went out to Edmonton on a tryout, it was kind of a whirlwind year, hockey-wise.

"You could see the end was coming, and so I talked to Sean Donovan who did development with Ottawa. I was kind of picking his brain on what that job required. He presented me with that opportunity, so obviously that was great. So that was kind of the first time that I realized the end was coming and what did I want to do afterwards, and that made the most sense."

The idea of having a Player Development Coordinator is a new to the NHL, as Kelly doesn't remember having anyone keep in contact with him the same way he now does with new players. He appreciates having former players in the role, though, as they've been through the experience themselves.

"The players that are doing this job I think are of the mindset, 'How do we help the next generation strive and obtain what we were able to obtain?'" said Kelly. "And I feel extremely fortunate to the game of hockey to be able to play as long as I have, and I would love to see other guys experience that as well."

Just this past week, Kelly kickstarted his position with the Bruins at the 2019 Prospects Challenge, where he worked with the likes of Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka as they faced off against prospects from Pittsburgh, Buffalo and New Jersey.

Despite this only being Kelly's second year in the development world, he doesn't find learning about all of the prospects as hard as you'd think.

"Last year, I used those exact words when I went to the rookie camp for Ottawa," said Kelly. "I said, 'Wow, it's overwhelming, how am I going to know all the players and remember all the players?' You just do.

"So, this year I kind of have that in my mind, like seeing all these players, a lot of them for the first time - three games and I kind of got a pretty good handle on who guys are. It's just, faces are always more difficult, but that takes time and forming those relationships takes time."

Kelly will spend the next season traveling around to build relationships with those same players, wherever they may be - with the Providence Bruins down the road, or to colleges across the country, or even to Europe.

To some, that may seem like a daunting task, especially considering most players Kelly will work with may seem particularly young. But they've all got one thing that brings them together and will help Kelly bridge that gap.

"I like that they've got a young heart as well too, and we have hockey in common," said Kelly. "That's a great thing." 

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