There are a lot of terrific tributes to Jim Kelley, one of the best reporters and columnists to write about hockey, here and elsewhere on the web.
They all discuss what a great worker, great family man and great friend he was. When I heard the awful news this week that Jim lost his fight with pancreatic cancer, I thought of all those things, too. I also marvelled at the fact he filed his last column for sportsnet.ca at 1:30 Tuesday morning, just hours before he died in a Buffalo hospital.
My sincerest wish is that I am long retired before I lose the fight against the dying of the light. But if it comes earlier, then let me go like Kelley, still in harness.
But when I had a chance to think about Kelley, what I remembered was not the great professional. What I remembered was a great man who would do just about anything for anyone.
In particular, I remember Jim going above and beyond several years ago to help my wife and I do something special for one of our children.
Our son is the world’s biggest Harry Potter nut. Well, he prefers the word scholar. Anything Matthew does not know about J.K. Rowling and her characters is not worth knowing.
Some years ago, Apple came out with an special Harry Potter edition iPod. It was like every other iPod except it had an engraving of the Hogwarts school crest on the back. It was also only available in the United States and only available online, which meant it had to be purchased from and shipped to a U.S. address. And, in the great tradition of Apple, it cost way more than your average iPod.
Our son, of course, was determined to get one. My wife and I discussed it long and hard, and decided to get one for Matthew for Christmas even though it was a lot more than we usually spent on gifts. But we knew Matthew would treasure it.
The trick was to find someone to order it and take delivery, which is where Jim, who lived near Buffalo, came in. He readily agreed. When it turned out that only the person placing the order could pay for it, he didn’t even hesitate. Jim whipped out his own credit card, in the days when the U.S. dollar was worth at least $1.50 Canadian, and placed the order, which was several hundred dollars.
Jim also wouldn’t hear of me driving down to Buffalo to pick up the iPod. He brought it with him to Toronto on one of the weeks he was co-host with Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 and delivered it. I paid him back but by that time the purchase price was sitting on his credit card balance for at least three or four weeks.
Matthew was over the moon on Christmas morning. He still uses his Hogwarts iPod and it is still in mint condition.
Thank you Jim; there aren’t many like you.