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Leafs legend Red Kelly passes away at age 91

Former Detroit Red Wings player Red Kelly watches his jersey retirement ceremony before an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly, who won eight Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, has passed away at age 91.

The Red Wings announced Kelly’s passing Wednesday with a statement from the Kelly family.

“Red was a devoted husband and caring father and grandfather and was tremendously proud of his many hockey accomplishments,” the statement reads. “He was very moved by decades of love and support from Red Wings fans and was humbled to have his jersey retired earlier this year. We are comforted in knowing that he impacted so many people both at and away from the rink and know that his life will be celebrated.”

“The entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization mourns the passing of Red Kelly,” said Toronto Maple Leafs President & Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan in a statement. “For those of us who were lucky enough to have known or encountered Red, we will all miss his sharp mind and keen intellect. He was a gentle man but a fierce competitor. Above all, he was a family man, and he will be missed by his hockey family. Our deepest sympathies go out to Andra, their children, grandchildren and the entire Kelly family.”

Kelly was born Leonard Patrick Kelly on July 9, 1927 in Simocoe, Ont., but earned the nickname Red for his bright red hair.

He broke into the NHL in 1947 as a defenceman with the Red Wings, and helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups in 1950, ’52, ’54 and ’55.

In 1954, Kelly became the first player to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman, and he also won three Lady Byng Memorial trophies while playing for the Red Wings.

In 1959, Kelly was traded to the New York Rangers. But after threatening to retire, the deal fell apart, and Kelly was instead traded to the Maple Leafs.

Once he arrived in Toronto, Kelly switched from defence to centre and helped the Maple Leafs win another four Stanley Cups. He also added a fourth Lady Byng award in 1961. Kelly retired from the NHL after helping the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup on May 2, 1967, finishing his career with 281 goals, 542 assists and 823 points in 1,316 games.

“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Leonard ‘Red’ Kelly – a man whose hockey career is so storied and distinguished that it may never be duplicated,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Red was the ultimate hockey renaissance man who seemingly could do it all.”

After retiring from playing, Kelly joined the expansion Los Angeles Kings as their first head coach. He also coached the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1969-73, and then coached the Maple Leafs from 1973-1977.