New Brunswick

Sea Dogs equipment manager named 1st star in return from radiation treatment

A longtime member of the Saint John Sea Dogs is back behind the bench, following 20 rounds of radiation treatment since last fall.

David Kelly, equipment manager with the Saint John Sea Dogs, returns to the sport he loves

DK is back with the Sea Dogs


4 years ago
A longtime member of the Saint John Sea Dogs was named first star player at Wednesday night's game in Saint John, following 20 rounds of radiation treatment since last fall. 0:40

A longtime member of the Saint John Sea Dogs was named first star player at Wednesday night's game in Saint John, following 20 rounds of radiation treatment since last fall. 

David Kelly, known as DK to friends and colleagues, received a standing ovation as he skated onto the ice in a moment he described as "surreal." 

"It's something he'll never forget," said Tim Roszell, manager of media and communications and the radio announcer with the Saint John Sea Dogs.

"It was certainly an emotional night."

Despite being in and out of hospital, Kelly said the cancer has spread. But after four months, his health has improved enough so he can return.

"We're gonna take it a day at a time," said Kelly from his shop inside the Sea Dogs' dressing room.

The team's equipment manager picked an exciting game for his return last night against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

The score was tied on several occasions, until the Bathurst team managed an 8-7 overtime win.

The entire hockey community has rallied around Kelly with #TeamDK, a hashtag that started during Kelly's second surgery over a year ago. 

"In a lot of ways he's like a big brother to a lot of the players," said Roszell. "His absence was really felt by the entire organization, by the entire hockey community."

Kelly has been the Sea Dogs' head equipment manager since the team entered the league in 2005 and is more like one of the players on the Saint John hockey team.

He said he was excited to return to the arena, a place that feels more like home than anything else. 

"When you're in the hospital you just want to go home and when you're home, I just want to come here," he said.

When Kelly left the post at the end of last October, he ended a 12-year streak of 769 games.

"As much as the streak meant, we were in a pretty serious situation in October," he said.

"I'm back here because we were focused on getting the treatments and stuff done."

A close bond

While Kelly may not have been in the locker room for the last four months, the team has remained close.

His journey's been something that has been very close to our hearts.- Matthew  Highmore

Kelly said the immense support from the organization and people within the hockey community were enough to keep his spirits high.

"It makes such a big difference," he said. "I don't think people realize the difference and how much it helps."

His return to the the lower halls of Harbour Station has been a boost for the whole team.

"It was a great day …to see him back here," said Danny Flynn, the head coach.

"To see him back on the road to recovery, hopefully, and back ready to join our team — it's a great day for the Sea Dogs."

Players happy he's back

For player Matthew Highmore, Kelly's return means a lot more than just getting an experienced hand at making repairs. 

Highmore, who plays forward for the team, said he's watched Kelly's work ethic over the past five years and has learned a lot.

Highmore said he was hoping Kelly's first game back would be a memorable one. 

"His journey's been something that has been very close to our hearts," he said. 

Kelly said he's been happy to see the team doing so well in the league.

The Sea Dogs have already clinched a playoff position and Kelly is excited to return just as things are starting to heat up.

Although his strength might be returning, Kelly won't be joining the team in its upcoming game in Cape Breton because of the distance. 

But he will continue to get back to what he loves, which includes making sure everything in the equipment room is back in the right place.

"We're really happy to have him back." said Highmore.