Norm Kelly began his soccer career in 1956 at the age of 17. His career was one to be respected by many as he dominated the game of soccer year after year.
He was an invaluable member of the St. Lawrence Soccer Team who was known for his ‘bullet’ shot and dominant play at midfield. Kelly is regarded by many as one of the top Laurentians of all time.
The biggest change I have seen in soccer in the past 50 years has to be the skill and fitness of the young players. It seems with the improvements to the regulation size soccer fields, the players have a lot more room to move about with greater ball control and accuracy, thus exercising their skills, speed and knowledge of the game.The small fields created congestion and therefore allowed the game to be very chippy.
I do have some great memories of playing soccer. One of these was in 1968 when we played the London Lions of St. John’s in a home-home series for the Provincial title.
It was a carry-over from 1967, when we defeated London Lions to go to the Challenge Cup in Toronto. It was the toughest game we ever had to play. There were no cheap shots – everyone dished it out and everyone took their knocks.
The soccer games between St. Lawrence and Grand Bank were always highly competitive, and both players and fans looked forward to them with great enthusiasm.
Rivalry was the name of the game when it came to Grand Bank games and that always led to very tense, competitive games. There was a lot of animosity on the field but when the game was over, we all socialized and had great fun.
One of my most memorable soccer games against Grand Bank was in 1961. A riot broke out on the field; players and fans alike were all involved. I was not dressed for the game as I had been injured, but as the tempers flared, Theo Etchegary and I jumped onto the field to help out our players, to get them off the field.
All I could hear from the fans was ‘Get Kelly’. Theo and I stood back to back and kept some of the fans away from us. The Town Cop from Grand Bank finally got us into the dressing room as we were surrounded by fans. I just couldn’t believe what was happening as Grand Bank was leading 3-0.
I had a new Volkswagen so I threw the keys to my wife to go and start the car so we could make an early exit with the Town Cop escorting us off the field. I jumped into the car and took off with rocks bouncing off my new car. They chased my car, pelting rocks at me until I got to the welcome sign outside Grand Bank. Needless to say, we did not finish the 1961 season.
4. You have always been a great supporter of the St. Lawrence Laurentians.
Realistically, how much longer can St. Lawrence continue to survive as a dominant force at both provincial and national soccer?
I think our Laurentians will continue to dominate for another year or two on the provincial level, and hopefully hold our own at the national level. At some point though we will have to start rebuilding, as there are still quite a number of potentially great soccer players in our town.
Hopefully, the economy in our town will pick up and we can go back to all our players practicing and living in our town. As it stands now the majority of our players, while they are from our town, are employed elsewhere and thus their practices, etc. go ahead in St. John’s. It must be very challenging for coaches and players.
Three of the greatest players I ever played with were Reg Farrell, Wils Molloy and Frank Tobin.
Three of the greatest players I ever played against were Bo Collier (Fortune), Tom Rose (Grand Bank) and Bernie Bennett (St. John’s).
7. What’s does the future hold for Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer?
I feel the future of NLSA soccer is still bright, as interest in the game continues to grow and more and more kids are joining our minor leagues.
My concern has to be the number of games played in our season compared to the other provinces. This is very evident each year when we enter the Nationals.
I realize money is the bottom line in any sport and money is needed to have exhibition games with top teams both here and other provinces during our regular season. I’m not sure what we can do to change this but, if we are to compete nationally and be successful, I feel we need a lot more competitions leading up to this event. I think this is one thing the President of NLSA could look at in the future.
I can’t help but share this Norm Kelly and wife Betty story with you. In 2004, I was president of the St. Lawrence Soccer Association and I invited Gene Tsartolias from the Quebec Provincial Champion Panellinios Soccer Club to come to St. Lawrence and be guest speaker at our annual Soccer Association Awards Banquet.
When Gene arrived, I went to buy a renowned photo of a soccer ball and the pair of boots from a local photographer, Cynthia Farrell. My plans were to present this famous photo to Gene for coming to St. Lawrence and being our guest speaker.
When I checked with Cynthia about getting one of these pictures, she informed me she had neither one of these pictures left, but Norm Kelly bought one some time ago.
I then went over to Norm’s home and marched right in their home and explained to them about Gene being in town and that they had a picture I would like to have. Norm and Betty took the picture off the living room wall and gave it to me to be present to Mr. Tartilios.
Betty, I can remember you wiping of the picture while myself and Norm just stood there laughing.
Gord Dunphy is a former 1990s Challenge Cup All-Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at ‘email@example.com/06/09