For years families have driven along Cottage Street, heading to the rink to play hockey. The kids in those vehicles play for the love of the sport, and they play at varying levels of skill and competitiveness.
For many young people, they harbour a dream of maybe one day making it to the NHL.
Now as those families head to the Mariners Centre they, and others, will travel up Jody Shelley Drive following a ceremony on Saturday, July 13, 2013, to officially change the name of the street.
While the new street name – named after Shelley, an NHLer who played minor hockey in Yarmouth – is about fulfilling one’s dreams, it also speaks to a sense of community and of being proud of where you’re from and giving back to those who supported you.
This feeling of gratitude was evident as the day was officially proclaimed Jody Shelley Day in Yarmouth.
Shelley arrived in hockey style, sitting on top of a Zamboni, as young children walked alongside clapping together thunder sticks.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood presented Shelley with a key to the town, and the official renaming of the street took place. There was also an unveiling of the new street address of the Mariners Centre, which is now 45 Jody Shelley Drive. Number 45 is the number Shelley has worn on his jerseys in the NHL.
Just one day before the street renaming, the Jody Shelley Golf Fore Health event was held at the Yarmouth Links, where around $30,000 was raised to help purchase equipment for the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. The Friday tally increased the amount of money that the tournament has raised over the years to close to $288,000. The Yarmouth Hospital Foundation organizes the tournament, which event chair Doris Landry calls a true team effort involving the foundation, volunteers, sponsors, golfers and, of course, Shelley. (EDITOR'S NOTE: BY THE YEAR 2019 THE EVENT HAD RAISED OVER HALF A MILLION DOLLARS.)
It is this fundraising effort, along with Shelley being the first “kid” from Yarmouth to play in the NHL and his unending support for his hometown, which led to this past weekend’s event. During the ceremony Shelley was described as a true gentleman with a lot of heart. Mariners Centre staffers Geoff Baker and Rick Clayton had come up with the idea of renaming the street in Shelley's honour.
For his part, Shelley was truly humbled. As he always does when he talks about Yarmouth, he spoke graciously about the town he and his family moved to when Shelley was 12.
It’s not just Shelley himself who is proud to say he is from Yarmouth, his parents Doreen and Ned and siblings Luke, Krista and Kate all said the same thing while they were here last week. For his siblings, it was their first time back to Yarmouth in 17 years since the family had moved away. Shelley had also brought his wife and two young children along for his visit home.
But in the Shelley family no one puts their pride for Yarmouth on display or into words as well as Jody Shelley does.
“The people down here have character, they have pride and they’re kind to others. You can send anyone here and be proud to have them meet you guys,” he said to those gathered for Saturday’s ceremony, while speaking about Yarmouth in general.
“What you instilled to me and my family, you can’t teach it. It's character and you people are great. I want to say thank you Yarmouth,” said Shelley. “When I say I’m from Yarmouth, N.S., I say it with pride, because what you guys mean to me, is more than I mean to you.”
As Shelley’s wife wiped away tears while he spoke, Shelley’s parents had earlier spoken of the emotion connected with the day and of having a street named after their son – a claim the majority of parents are not able to make.
“It’s unreal to believe that the people of Yarmouth love Jody and appreciate him that much,” his mother said.
Shelley’s journey to the NHL is much different from many others. He wasn’t the kid playing minor hockey that all of the scouts were scrambling to. Infact, the last level of hockey he played in Yarmouth was midget B, which wasn’t a high competitive level of rep hockey. He played in the old rink, calling the Mariners Centre its replacement, state of the art compared to the old barn, which used netting to catch falling insulation before it fell onto the ice surface.
Shelley invited himself to the QMJHL’s Mooseheads training camp, going to camp as a walk-on hoping to make his mark. He did and played with the team for three seasons before later playing some university and pro hockey. Within seven years of playing midget B in Yarmouth, Shelley was playing his first games in the NHL.
His message: if you have a dream, go after it.
Speaking to the crowd, Shelley recounted an experience where he and a friend had gone to a selects team hockey tryout in New Brunswick. They were probably 16 years old, he said. A man associated with the evaluation camp stood up in the room of 80 or so players and told them, “Not one of you in this room will make it to the NHL.”
“He wanted to squash a dream and that just rings in my head. Don’t ever squash anyone’s dream,” Shelley said. “Keep your dream alive. You never know what's going to happen. You’re from Yarmouth, N.S. but be proud and go for the moon, because you never know what you’ll get.”