By Tina Comeau
So far in his NHL career he’s played for the Columbus Blue Jackets, the San Jose Sharks, the New York Rangers and his current team, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Yet when you ask Jody Shelley where home is, his answer is simple. It’s Yarmouth.
Which is why Shelley says he’s looking forward to the upcoming Jody Shelley Golf Fore Health tournament being held Friday, July 6, at the Clare Golf and Country Club. The annual event is a fundraiser for the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation, which uses money raised from the event to purchase equipment for the Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
After being held in Pubnico and then Clare, starting next year the Jody Shelley Golf Fore Health tournament will be hosted at the Yarmouth Links for the next few years.
To date, the tournament has raised more than $225,000 to help purchase hospital equipment.
“The hospital foundation really picks what the community needs and it’s things that people usually have to travel for to get to, so the foundation makes it available to people through fundraising,” says Shelley.
This year the hospital foundation has been focusing on the purchase of eight new cardiac monitors through its fundraising.
For Shelley, he sees his involvement in the golf tournament as two-fold – he supports the hospital, and he supports a community that has always remained close to his heart.
“I see it as a great way to get back and to give back to the Yarmouth area. I had a lot of great years in Yarmouth, me and my family.”
Shelley moved to Yarmouth at the age of 12 when his father was transferred here to work at the Rio Algom tin mine. Born in Manitoba and having lived in Newfoundland and Vancouver, in Yarmouth Shelley attended junior school and high school and played a multitude of sports, including minor hockey in the Yarmouth County Minor Hockey Association, where things started to take shape for his hockey future. His first big hockey gig after leaving Yarmouth was to play for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He made his pro debut with the Saint John Flames in the AHL before signing on as a free agent in the NHL with the Blue Jackets in 2000.
But even with all of the places hockey has taken him, Yarmouth is never far from his thoughts. In March Shelley recorded a video encouraging people to vote for Yarmouth during its a run for the Kraft Hockeyville title, calling Yarmouth a great hockey town with great people.
Asked about his affinity for Yarmouth, Shelley says, “You know, when you leave a place and you’re out doing what I’m doing, you want the people to know that you consider it home and you think about home and you’ve not forgotten them. So I’m lucky to be able to get back annually and not only see everybody, but we have a good time for a day and we actually do something good for the community.”
He credits the hospital foundation and its volunteers for the work they do in preparing for the golf tournament. “Really, I just show up and they do all the work,” he says.
But the hospital foundation sees it differently.
“Jody has been returning to the area for many years hosting hockey schools and then in 2005 lent his name and support to a Yarmouth Hospital Foundation golf event. Jody Shelley’s Golf Fore Health, sponsored by Tri Star Industries, has since grown into a premier event that is sold out year after year. Formerly held in Pubnico and currently staged in Clare, the tournament helps to raise funds for much needed medical equipment,” say Paulette Goodwin-Sweeney and Paul Comeau of the hospital foundation in a letter to Yarmouth Town Council. “Jody Shelley consistently speaks of Yarmouth with pride…Jody is quick to acknowledge what a pleasure it is to ‘give back’ to the community that helped to shape his NHL career.”
In his early years playing in the NHL, Shelley returned to Yarmouth to run a summer hockey school for minor hockey players. While his upcoming visit to Yarmouth is about golf, it’s hard not to ask him what advice he has for young hockey players growing up in his hometown.
Even though very few will ever make it to the NHL, hockey can still be a big part of their lives.
“The number one thing is make sure you’re having fun. I still have fun everyday. It’s a treat, I’m a man playing a boy’s game . . . I’ve been very fortunate,” Shelley says. “And don’t let anyone outwork you. You hear guys who say everybody works hard . . . but you’ve got to make sure you work the hardest.”
Asked what role his coaches seek of him in the ice, Shelley says, “Well, they’d love it if I scored, but that didn’t happen this year.
“They’re just looking for a good forecheck, a presence, maybe make some noise with the body check, if you get a chance to get under someone’s skin or just rattle around a bit, that’s kind of what I do,” he says. “I try to play kind of a reckless game and not take penalties, but I try to be a presence and an energy guy on the ice.”