Reg Kelusky was old-school. Simple things mattered. A good day was trooping off into the bush to cut wood. Or sitting down every night to dinner with his family at 5 o’clock.
He spent 35 years at the old Coca Cola plant in Peterborough, Ont., a quarter-century of those as a mechanic. A honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work.
They don’t have any bright lights, any florid testimonials, any splashy Hall of Fame inductions for mechanics at Coke. Nor for dads who bring their kids up right, set them off into life strengthened by a value-set that never dates.
In a better world, they would.
“My dad passed away exactly three years ago, of cancer,’’ Tracey Kelusky is saying softly. “To the day. Aug. 11th, 2013. So to get that call (Wednesday) from the commissioner and then to have the announcement on this day of all days … let me tell you, it’s been pretty emotional. Pretty awesome.
“Anybody who knew my old man knew he was my biggest fan. He pushed me to be the person I am today. He was a country bumpkin who understood the value of work and wanted me to fully understand what the word meant, too.
“I remember as a kid finishing a hockey game or a lacrosse game, having scored five goals and feeling pretty darn proud of myself, and my dad would say: ‘Yeah, but you didn’t run back’ or ‘You didn’t dig hard enough for that loose ball.’
“He never wanted me to be satisfied.
“We hung out. We were friends. He was my dad.
“So it’s a very proud moment for me, going into the Hall of Fame, knowing he’d be up there smiling, proud of me.”
Thursday, the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame officially swung open its door for Tracey Kelusky, the bantam rooster who had no qualms about battling way above his weight (“I know wouldn’t want to fight him,’’ laughed the Roughnecks’ first owner Brad Banister, last week, during the wait on Hall voting results. “Would you?”).
If, on his second crack at induction, that door had not swung open, those countless people Kelusky inspired and counselled over the course of a stellar lacrosse career would’ve been tempted to lower a collective shoulder and break it down for him.
Tracey Kelusky, of course, spent eight seasons here as the emotional and competitive fulcrum of the Calgary Roughnecks, captaining two Champions Cup winners over that span.
He brought more than just on-floor success, though. Professionalism, integrity, and tenacity.
Only fitting, then, that he will enter the Hall in a class that includes two other superb players: Josh Sanderson and John Tavares.
“When you see your name on the ballot you don’t really understand what it means; what it entails,’’ Kelusky says, haltingly. “It’s just your name, right?
“Hall of Fame. Those three words. You never think of yourself in those terms.
“But when I did find out, I was honoured and humbled, in the same breath.
“It’s crazy, and you hear it all the time, but you immediately think of all the people who helped you through your career, through your life. It happens in a flash.
“I thought of my dad. Terry Sanderson, my mentor. Another mentor, Chris Hall, C.H. John Grant Sr., who worked with my dad at Coke and kinda dragged me into lacrosse.
“All my teammates over the years who played the right way.
“You look at the Hall of Fame and it’s something of a glorified team award, really. I don’t care who you are, you can’t accomplish anything without the people surrounding you.”
Coming from most others, all the standard niceties that have become accustomed cliche fodder for those being feted with individual accolades sound hollow, false.
Not from Kelusky. This is someone who doesn’t merely parrot those cliches, he lives them. Both during his playing days and now as an assistant coach with the NLL’s New England Black Wolves.
“I’ve always taken as much pride in giving a teammate a pat on the shoulder or getting one back as anything. There aren’t too many situations when you have a bunch of people pulling on the same rope; collectively doing it for one another.
“I wanted to go out every night and earn the respect of my teammates. I always called it war. So going out to war, who would you want beside you?
“If I wasn’t one of those guys, how I could expect anyone else to be?
“When I’m coaching now, that’s what I try to tell our guys: I don’t care about the goals, I don’t care about the assists. At the end of the day, if guys lay everything on the floor, play for one another and work for a common goal, success will come. Trust in that.
“That’s what my old man taught me. Now I’ve got a young guy I’m trying to pass that philosophy on to, the way he passed it on to me.”
The old man.
Gone too soon. Three years now. To the day.
But what he believed in, what he stood for, are, and will evermore be reflected in the man now entering the NLL Hall of Fame. They are a huge part of why he is being inducted at all.
“Quite a guy,’’ Kelusky reflects, wistfully. “I think I can safely say they don’t make ‘em like that any more. He came from a sawed-off town in Ontario, Bancroft, with a population of maybe 400. He had those strong core values. Those ethics.
“I’ve always taken pride in my roots.
“He’s proud today, I know.
“I can see him, up there, a couple of pints in his hands, maybe peacocking a little bit, raising a toast.”
Father to son.
And down here, son to father.
Cheers to both.