Chris Kelland captained Great Britain during the early 1990s, including 1993 when they unexpectedly won promotion to the elite Pool A of the World Championships.
At club level he played 18 seasons in the sport’s top tier with Murrayfield Racers, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers, and was named to six All-Star squads. He spent 11 seasons in the Scottish capital, often logging around 50 minutes a game.
When the five-foot, nine-inch, 185lbs defenceman joined the Racers for the 1980-81 campaign his efforts were a major factor in Racers capturing the Northern League, Autumn Cup and Icy Smith Cup. He was named Overseas Rookie of the Year and won a place on the All-Star ‘A’ team.
Coached by his fellow Hall of Famer Alex Dampier, the Racers retained the Northern League crown the next season and added the briefly revived Scottish League title. In the Heineken British Championships in 1984 and 1985 Racers were twice losing finalists, but under his captaincy in 1986 they finally took the crown. His fame was such that he once featured on a Lyons’ Tea quiz card.
Consecutive Heineken British League titles followed in 1986-87 and 1987-88. The ‘Cinderella’ season of 1989-90 produced a runners-up place in the league and a memorable 24-penalty shot defeat in the championships by Cardiff Devils after overtime had failed to separate the sides.
Coach Dampier was the biggest influence on his career and in the summer of 1991, he followed his fellow countryman to Nottingham where he assisted the Panthers in collecting the Norwich Union Autumn Cup, a runners-up place in the league and another Wembley final, this time losing out to Durham Wasps.
Midway through 1992-93 the pair joined the Panthers’ deadly rivals Sheffield Steelers and more winners’ medals followed, including consecutive league and championship play-offs in 1995-96 and 1996-97, and the Benson & Hedges Autumn Cup in 1997-98.
For the first Superleague season in 1996-97 Kelland was at Manchester’s Nynex Arena to help the Steelers win the Play-off Championships.
Kelland was 40 when Dampier was sacked by Sheffield in 1998, and these two factors persuaded him to realise a long-held ambition by being accepted into the South Yorkshire Fire Service.
As a fitness fanatic, however, he stayed in the game into his forties, keeping in shape by playing for lower league sides. He helped Solihull Blaze to an English Premier League and Cup double in 1998-99, turned out a dozen times for the British National League’s Hull Thunder in 1999-2000, and in his final season of 2000-01 he briefly assisted the BNL’s newest team, Coventry Blaze.
In all, he played 844 games in five different leagues over 21 years. At the top level, he appeared in 797 contests, scoring 1,239 points (358 goals) and taking 2,157 penalty minutes.
When in March 1989 he obtained his British passport, he was selected to play for his adopted country. Appointed captain in 1990 by GB’s coach Dampier, he led the team to some of their greatest international successes for almost 30 years.
GB rose through the World Championship ranks from the depths of Pool D in 1990 to a sensational Pool B gold medal in Holland in 1993, and a year later they faced the might of Russia and Canada. The IIHF named Chris the Championships’ Best Defenceman in 1991 and 1992.
Capped 31 times, he scored 18 points (ten goals) with 44 minutes in the penalty box. However, it was his calm and authoritative presence that was his most effective contribution to the national team.
Christopher Kelland was born on 22 December 1957 in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.