Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky both jumped from the ice to the owner’s booth.
Now Kris Kellaway is trying to do the same.
The former Thunder Bay North Stars captain and his father Scott on Friday took the ownership reins of the Superior International Junior Hockey League team, an opportunity the younger Kellaway said he couldn’t pass up.
“It’s obviously been something my dad’s wanted to do forever,” said Kellway, who put up 16 goals and 30 points in 44 games with the Stars last season.
“He’s done it before and he loves the game like no one else. It’s been a dream of mine. I want to be a part of hockey forever. It’s my passion. I love it more than anything. When I heard my dad had the opportunity to buy it, he offered me to go 50-50 with him. It was a no-brainer. I went for it right away.”
The 21-year-old said it wasn’t easy to walk away from his playing days, but after the Stars were eliminated in the SIJHL postseason, he made the decision to hang up his skates.
“I knew I wanted to be part of the game. I didn’t know I was going to get this opportunity, but I’m sure glad it came up and I’m super excited about it.”"
With 21 players signed for next season and camp scheduled to begin at the end of August, Kellaway said it will be an adjustment, going from being one of the boys to one of the bosses.
But he’s ready for the transition, he said.
“I still have really good friends on the team and quite a few players on the team that I’ve played with, if not for two years, my last year. As an owner I’m going to distance myself from the players, obviously. It’s two very different things, from a player to an owner,” he said. “I will be a part of the team and will be out on the ice with the boys pushing pucks and stuff, but my roles are very different now and I won’t be a part of the dressing room as much as I was last year.”
For Scott Kellaway, it’s a second chance at SIJHL ownership.
The elder Kellaway, the founder of Family Memorials, owned the Fort Frances Sabres from 2007 to 2009, but pulled up stakes after two seasons, Kris Kellaway saying it was too tough to manage the team from Thunder Bay.
Kris Kellaway said the team plans to stick it out at Fort William Gardens, at least for this season, though a move to Port Arthur Arena down the road isn’t out of question.
The North Stars have won five SIJHL titles since joining the fledgling Junior A circuit in 2000, but have not advanced to the league final since 2010, their last championship season.
The younger Kellaway said the goal is to return the team to its glory days.
“We’re going to make it so every player earns their spot on the ice, who wants to be out on the ice. There’s one thing I don’t like to do is lose and we’re not in it to lose.”
The Kellaways bought the team from previous owner Doug Gunsinger, who in 2010 saved the team from extinction.
Before that the team was owned by Gerald Bannon.
The North Stars will also have a new coach behind the bench in 2015-16 in Gary Wenzel.