#21 – JK

jack-memorialJack was an original member of Dawg Nation until his tragic passing in April of 2010. He was only 53 years old, and left behind his wife Kathie, and three daughters.

The best way to understand what Jack meant to our group would be to read a tribute written and delivered by our leader, “The Dawgfather” Marty Richardson.

A Tribute To a Friend and Teammate- by Marty Richardson

Hi, my name is Martin “Cappy” Richardson. I’m here today to speak on behalf of Dawg Nation. What is Dawg Nation you may ask? Lately I’ve gotten that question a lot. Dawg Nation started as a men’s hockey team in Littleton but has grown into much, much more. Dawg Nation is in one word, “family”. We’re friends, we’re teammates, we’re brothers. Last week, our family that lost a teammate, a brother, a friend…….an incredible friend.

Jack will be laid to rest in his Dawgs sweater. What an honor. What an honor to all of us in Dawg Nation. It shows what the Dawgs meant to Jack and what Jack meant to the Dawgs.

The news about Jack was devastating to all of us. Last Thursday, a group of us met at a local bar to share our “Jack” stories and just be together. A friend mentioned to me that I should order Jack a beer and place it in front of an empty chair. I loved the idea so I did just that, when I got to the bar I ordered Jack’s favorite, ice cold Molson. One for me and one for my buddy. The waiter returned a moment later and informed me there was only one Molson left in the entire bar. Can you believe that? One Molson left……….By the way, Jack got that last Molson.

Jack and I met a few years back during a hockey drop-in session at the Edge Ice Arena. That was the start of something special. I was on the lookout for quality players and quality people to fill out our roster. From the moment I met Jack, I could see he was both. At the time we only had one team and I tapped him for that. A few months later Jack and I decided to build a second Dawgs team and Dawgs II was born…….Dawg Nation was born.

Anyone that knows me, knows I like to give our guys goofy nicknames. Jack got one as well. Jack “Machine Gun” Kelly. The Machine Gun set a standard of excellence for anyone donning a Dawgs sweater.

Jack and I had an easy friendship. We were matched on so many levels. We’re both intensely competitive, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As we got to know each other we realized that we were both college soccer players, we were both business men, we both loved hockey, we both had three daughters, our oldest daughters were even the same age. But most importantly we shared the same passion for life. Conversation was easy as we always had plenty to talk about. We chatted about life, sports, family, politics and business. We met monthly for a lunch. I’m going to miss those lunches.

There was a real ease and a comfort in those conversations. That was never more evident than just six weeks ago. I was awarded the incredible honor of representing Dawg Nation in the presentation of collective gift from our club to the Kelly family. It’s an evening that I’ll never forget. I was in the Kelly’s living room with Jack, Kathie and several other family members. We shared hugs, tears, laughs and memories. At the end of the night I was able to spend some one on one time with my buddy. We didn’t say much, we didn’t have to, we just enjoyed each others company. As we watched an Avs game, I put my hand over his and we enjoyed that time together as only two old friends can.

Jack was special to me and everyone else on so many levels. He exemplified everything that a friend and a teammate should be. We should all strive to be a “Jack”.

I’d like to share a few recent stories with you. Stories that many of you don’t know, but will help you understand what Jack was all about. Jack was a proud man but never boastful, he lived through example, and what an example that was.

During Jack’s first hospital stay I received a call from him. He asked me to stop by on my way home from work and bring my laptop. I followed his request, but I had no idea what he was up to. It turns out he decided to have custom hoodies made for the team, this would be his Christmas present to the guys. I tried to split the cost with him but he wouldn’t let me. We sat in his hospital room and designed them right there. Now think about that, this is guy that is going through the toughest time of his life and his biggest concern was his teammates. Who does that? Jack “Machine Gun” Kelly does, that’s who. The hoodies turned out terrific and I had the honor to stand by Jack’s side as he handed them out on December 23rd. An incredible night.

Another “Jack” moment came a couple of years ago. I was having lunch with Jack and shared that I was going to be hiking four fourteeners on the upcoming weekend. The hike was near Breckenridge and he instantly offered the use of his home in Breck. I declined, but he insisted. Mind you, I was doing this hike with several friends of mine that Jack had never met. Not only did he offer a place to sleep he showed up on Friday night with steaks, twice baked potatoes and several bottles of wine. Folks, Jack didn’t even know these guys. Of course everyone was blown away, but I wasn’t. To me, that was just my friend Jack.

Let me share a bit about “Jack the hockey player”. He was a gifted skater and a competitive player. Jack prided himself on the art of the face-off. He and I often shared tips and strategies in regard to taking a draw. He knew exactly how many draws he’d won or lost each night. I was equally obsessed in that part of the game and we both privately claimed to be the best on the team when it came to winning that key face-off.

This past August we were in the championship game and clinging to a precarious 2-1 lead. A whistle stopped play with only fifteen seconds left. There was a timeout and I gathered the team. I naturally assigned myself to win that key face-off, and believe me, this was a key face-off. As our huddle broke Jack stopped me and said, “Marty, let me take the draw”. That’s when my competitive side kicked in and I said, “okay, but you better win the flippin’ draw”, but I didn’t say “flippin”. That’s when Jack’s competitive juices kicked in and he replied, “I’ll win the flippin’ draw”, but he didn’t say “flippin”. We skated out and took our positions. The referee dropped the puck, and guess what? Jack won that flippin’ draw. The puck went back to one of our defensemen and was cleared down the ice. The final seconds ticked off and we began jumping around like little kids on Christmas morning. Naturally, one of the first guys to embrace me was none other than Jack. He winked at me and said, “Marty, we just won the flippin’ Cup”, but he didn’t say “flippin”.

Dawg Nation has recently gone through some incredible highs and some incredible lows. On one of my last visits to Jack I said, “what do you think about a motto for our club?” He agreed it was a good idea, so we started working on it. We shared a couple of laughs as we came up with some r-rated versions but we really wanted something that would be meaningful and lasting. Something that would exemplify what we’re all about. By now, most of you know what we came up with but I’ll share it anyway.

Play hard
Play fair
Be modest in victory
Be gracious in defeat

Jack and I both thought that was perfect. To me, it was something to strive for. But when I think of Jack, it was something he already was. After that, I told him I was going to add the new motto to all my Dawg emails. The next time I saw Jack, I asked if he’d noticed the motto on my messages. He had, and he told me the first time he saw it, it made him smile. The second time he saw it, it made him proud.

Play hard
Play fair
Be modest in victory
Be gracious in defeat

Next time you see that, say that, hear that, think about your teammate, your friend, your brother…… Jack “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Rest in peace my friend.