By Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - Jody Shelley learned one of his most important life lessons while fighting for a spot on the Halifax Mooseheads roster.
The moment can be traced back to when the NHL veteran of 12 seasons was just a spry 18-year-old attending the Herd’s training camp.
A few days and fights in he figured he’d embrace his offensive side at the expense of his physical game.
The assistant coach at the time, Shawn MacKenzie, noticed and promptly took him aside.
“He said ‘you’re six-foot-two but if you want to play like you’re five-foot-eight then we’ll get a five-foot-eight in to play that way. If you want to stick around, play big,’” recalled Shelley.
That’s just one reason why the legendary Moosehead, who’s still the Herd’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, remains forever indebted to the organization he played for from 1994-97.
“I learned right there never to be comfortable and never try to stop getting better because there are so many guys looking to take your job,” said Shelley.
On Tuesday, Shelley, who as much an NHL warrior as any, racking up over 1,500 penalty minutes in 627 regular season games, spoke with a childlike zest and sincerity about the Herd’s first QMJHL title.
“Being a Moosehead is such a big part of my life and to see them win it was so special for me,” said Shelley, who in his career with the Herd never made it past the semifinals. “To see these guys accomplish more than I was able to and who knows what else, I’m just so excited for them, the organization and the city; it makes you pretty proud to be part of the Mooseheads family.”
The all-time fan favourite’s jersey hangs from the Metro Centre rafters. He’s since built his career on guts and selflessness.
“I am proud of being among not a very big group who have had the privilege of wearing that jersey and representing a city like Halifax.”
In essence, he said, being with the Herd was a coming of age experience.
“People were asking for my autograph for the first time. You learn how to carry yourself, be respectful and represent an organization.”
And as the present Mooseheads push for junior hockey supremacy at the Memorial Cup, starting Saturday, his piece of advice to the players is simple.
“You just enjoy every last second of it, of being a Halifax Moosehead,” he said. “Those players will have a very good basis for moving on in life. If they don’t know that now, they certainly will soon enough.”