NEW YORK -- Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Howe and ECHL co-founder Pat Kelly have been named recipients of the 2016 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
The award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, was presented to the National Hockey League by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport's development.
"As the Lester Patrick Award observes its 50th anniversary and the National Hockey League prepares to celebrate its Centennial, we are extremely pleased that Mark Howe and Pat Kelly are receiving this recognition for their decades of devotion to hockey in the United States," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Mark Howe, the youngest hockey player ever to win an Olympic medal prior to his Hall of Fame professional career, joins his legendary father, Gordie, as a Lester Patrick honoree. Pat Kelly attained success at all levels of the sport and pioneered the growth of hockey's popularity in the South. The NHL family sends congratulations and thanks to both for their contributions to our game."
Howe and Kelly will be honored as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Philadelphia. Ticket information is available at www.ushockeyhalloffame.com.
Howe was born in Detroit, Mich., where he played minor hockey with the Tier II Junior Red Wings. As a 16-year-old, he was a key member of the 1972 silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team at Sapporo, Japan. Howe made his professional debut in 1973-74 with the WHA's Houston Aeros, becoming part of hockey history for playing on a line with his legendary father Gordie and brother Marty. He ended the season with 79 points, earning WHA Rookie of the Year honors on Houston's Avco Cup championship team. Howe led his club to a second straight Avco Cup the next year as well.
Howe joined the WHA's New England Whalers in 1977-78 and remained on the team when it joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80, scoring 80 points in his first NHL season. Howe joined the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982, and in ten seasons in Philadelphia he became the Flyers all-time leader among defensemen in goals, assists and points (138-342-480). Howe also played in a pair of Stanley Cup Finals with the Flyers (1985, 1987). He finished his NHL playing career with the Red Wings and accepted a role in the Red Wings front office upon retirement. His name is engraved four times on the Stanley Cup as Red Wings' pro scout (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008).
Howe was a three-time runner up for the James Norris Memorial Trophy (NHL's top defenseman); a three-time First Team NHL All Star; a four-time participant in the NHL All-Star Game; a 2001 inductee to the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame; a 2003 inductee to the US Hockey Hall of Fame and a 2011 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Kelly is entering his 64th season in junior and professional hockey. Winning the Ontario Bantam B Championship with Crowland in 1948-49 inspired him to pursue a playing career and by 1952 Kelly was skating with St. Catharines of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Kelly played professionally for the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League, the Trois Rivieres Lions in the Quebec League, the Troy Bruins of the International Hockey League and the Greensboro Generals of the Eastern Hockey League.
Named Commissioner Emeritus of the ECHL following the 1995-96 season after serving as Commissioner for the first eight seasons of the ECHL, Kelly was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 2008.
Kelly began his coaching career in the Eastern Hockey League, beginning with the Jersey Devils and later with the Clinton (New York) Comets. In addition, Kelly served as head coach and general manager for the Charlotte Checkers in the Southern Hockey League from 1973-76, guiding the club to a 136-68-12 record, two regular season titles and two postseason titles while earning Coach of the Year honors in the SHL twice.
Kelly coached the Colorado Rockies in the National Hockey League in 1977-78 and was the only coach in history to lead the Rockies into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was inducted into the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1990; the Roanoke Hall of Fame and the Sports Hall of Fame in his hometown of Welland, Ontario in 1998; and the Greensboro Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.