Rookie initiations are part of hockey lore. Perhaps the best story I've ever heard was of how the Philadelphia Flyers players welcomed a rookie named Bob Kelly to the NHL in 1970.
Kelly, who came out of Oshawa as a junior star, was the victim of the famous and extravagant snipe hunt prank. The Flyers players had spent a few weeks talking about snipe hunts. Finally Kelly asked what exactly a snipe was, he was told it was a pigeon-like bird.
Of course, hunting snipes required a rather unusual hunting method. Flyers tough guy Earl Heiskala explained:
"We beat the bushes with poles and when the snipes begin to fly we shine flashlights on them. They'll become confused and fly into the netting and get all tangled up. Then we toss them in the bag."
The Flyers prank was so elaborate that they had the cops show up, even firing a warning shot. Of course, only Kelly was arrested on charges of hunting snipes out of season. He must have really panicked when Heiskala showed up at the holding cell with his head all bandaged and full of what appeared to be red blood.
The spooked Kelly must have been really sweating when a fake judged showed up. Kelly immediately pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined $1500 plus court costs. That, of course, is when the Flyers teammates stormed into the room laughing, saying "Welcome to the NHL, Hound!"
Kelly went on to become a top player of the Flyers in the 1970s, including their two Stanley Cup championship teams in 1974 and 1975.
Nobody appreciated Kelly more than coach Fred Shero.
"He's got something that's hard to buy. No coach in the world can make a guy do what Kelly does. It's not in his contract, it comes from within him."
What he did best was run around recklessly, hitting every enemy in sight. He was also a noted fighter.
"He always gets in three or four punches before the other guy realizes he's in a fight," said Bobby Clarke. "He throws punches faster than anybody in the league."
Kelly was not much of a scorer. Only once in 10 seasons with the Flyers did he reach 20 goals. But he wasn't there to score goals. "If Bob Kelly scores twenty goals, I'm not using him properly," said Shero.
Kelly was the Flyers spark plug, as well as a pest and tough guy. Whenever coach Shero felt the game need a change of pace or needed his bench fired up, he would tap Kelly's shoulder and his fury would be unleashed on the subsequent shift.
Kelly, who finished his career with parts of two seasons with the lowly Washington Capitals in the early 1980s, played in 837 career NHL games, scoring 154 goals, 208 assists, 362 points and of course 1454 PIMs.