TORONTO -- Red Kelly is rarely stuck for words.
But as the 87-year-old Hockey Hall of Fame member glanced over his shoulder at his image as a young defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings on an enlarged replica of a stamp being released by Canada Post, he was speechless for a few seconds.
"Wow," Kelly finally said, "I dreamed about playing hockey, but I never dreamed I'd be on a postage stamp."
Kelly, along with fellow Hall of Fame members Pierre Pilote, Harry Howell, Doug Harvey and the king of NHL defensemen, Bobby Orr, have been immortalized on stamps that celebrate the NHL's Original Six. It is part of the lead up to the 100th anniversary of the NHL in 2017 and is the result of a partnership between Canada Post and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The first in the series of Canada Post stamps, issued last year, featured NHL jerseys.
Also honored on stamps this year is the Zamboni. Seven stamps featuring the ice-cleaning vehicle with the logos of the Canada NHL teams will be available.
Kelly, Pilote, Howell and Orr were in attendance at the presentation of the stamps at the Great Hall in the Hockey Hall of Fame here. Horton was represented by his daughters, Jeri Horton-Joyce, Tracy Horton-Simone and Kelly Welsh, and Harvey was represented by his sons, Glen and Doug Jr.
Together, the six honorees were part of 22 Stanley Cup winning teams (Howell's came as a scout with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990) and 20 Norris Trophies as the best defenseman in the NHL. Harvey won the Norris Trophy six times with the Montreal Canadiens and once with the New York Rangers. Pilote won it three times with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kelly, who played center for a good part of his career, was the first defenseman to be awarded the trophy in 1954, and Howell won it in 1967, the year before Orr went on an eight-year run.
In 1966-67, Orr's first year in the NHL and the only year he played in the Original Six era, Howell won his Norris Trophy and offered one of the most memorable quotes of all-time, suggesting, "I might as well enjoy it now because I expect it's going to belong to Bobby Orr from now on."
"I remember when Harry made that comment and I was very flattered," Orr said. "Harry was one of the great stay-at-home defensemen, so when he said that, I was thrilled."
For Glen and Doug Harvey, this is the second time their father has been honored by Canada Post with his image on a stamp. The same goes for Orr. In 2000, Canada Post featured what it said was the best starting six of all-time, putting goalie Jacques Plante, defensemen Orr and Harvey, and forwards Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Maurice "Rocket" Richard on stamps.
"My dad would be so thrilled by this," Doug Jr. said.
The stamps of the players and the Zambonis are the brainchild of partners Avi Dunkelman and Joseph Gault of Toronto-based Mix Design Group. Dunkelman said transferring old and worn images of the players supplied by the Hockey Hall of Fame to stamp quality had its challenges.
He said the photos had to be scanned, the background had to be removed, and the colors had to be enhanced and balanced.
"We had to bring the photos to life," Dunkelman said.
Harvey has a true hockey card pose, leaning on his stick with a smile that suggests he loves being the most dominant defender of his era. Howell, a quiet but tough defender, has the sly grin of a defenseman who wants you to like him before he catches you with your head down cutting across the blue line. Pilote has the studious look of a smallish defender who might surprise you with his strength and creativity. Kelly is represented with a mop of red hair from his Detroit days. Horton was often referred to as the strongest player in the NHL during his 23-year career but always had a chiseled look of innocence on his face that is represented on his stamp.
Then there is No. 4.
If you think Orr's stamp is the famous image of him flying through the air after scoring the overtime Stanley Cup winning goal against St. Louis in 1970, you couldn't be more wrong. He is pictured during a stoppage of play with his very '70s long hair and a look of concentration that reflects his inner drive.
Although Orr played one season in the six-team NHL before it doubled to 12 in 1967-68, he has a great appreciation of what the players from that era went through. Jobs were limited and rivalries were fierce.
Orr glanced at the other three defenseman in attendance and the children of the two who have passed away and said, "It really says a lot about these guys that they played the majority of their careers in a six-team League."