BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads, proud members of the ECHL, have named Boise native Keenan Kelly as the team’s next Assistant Coach, the team announced on Thursday.
“I’m thrilled to be able to come home and still pursue coaching hockey at a high level,” said Kelly. “It’s exciting to see how my young coaching career has come full circle. I grew up watching the Steelheads—I came to all the games and was a season ticket holder—and am now behind the bench. Looking at it like that, it’s a pretty cool experience.”
“We’re extremely proud to announce Keenan as the new Assistant Coach for the Idaho Steelheads,” said Everett Sheen, Steelheads Head Coach & Director of Hockey Operations. “He is a young coach with an extensive coaching background. He has proven himself at the NCAA level and the junior hockey level. Keenan has had to wear many hats over his career and is not afraid to do whatever is asked of him. Keenan has a tremendously sharp hockey mind and sees the game in a way that fits our beliefs and culture here in Boise.”Kelly, 30, joins the Steelheads following six seasons as an assistant coach and associate head coach in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), most recently with the Wichita Falls Warriors as Associate Head Coach during the 2020-21 season running their defense and special teams units. He helped lead Wichita Falls to a 30-19-7 record for their inaugural season while reaching the second round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs and contributing to the Warriors being named 2020-21 NAHL Organization of the Year. Kelly also served as Associate Head Coach for the New Mexico Ice Wolves for the 2019-20 campaign in their inaugural season and organized their forward lines and special teams.
Kelly began his professional coaching career with the Austin Bruins, spending four seasons as an assistant coach beginning in the 2014-15 campaign and leading the team’s defensive efforts and forward lines for two years each as well as their power play units. In six seasons with NAHL organizations, his teams made the postseason in four of six years, including three of four seasons with Austin and an appearance in the Robertson Cup Final during the 2014-15 season. Prior to accepting the coaching vacancy with the Steelheads, Kelly was named Head Coach for the Kenai River Brown Bears and set to begin his first season leading the team but cited family reasons for making the move back to the Treasure Valley.“It’s great to have the head coaching experience, but I just felt with where my career is at and also with other things at play with my mom’s health that it was right,” said Kelly on his decision. “My family is of utmost importance. I felt it was important for me to come home and be around my family at this time, and I get the best of both worlds. I get to be around family and be a support system for them as well as continue to develop as a hockey coach and learn a different level of hockey.”
Kelly was raised in Boise after his family moved to the Treasure Valley from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the mid-1990s when he was very young. His family members were avid hockey fans and owned Steelheads season tickets beginning in the inaugural 1997-18 season as part of the WCHL, sitting in Section 112 along the visitor’s blue line. Kelly attended Fairmont Jr. High School and was slated to attend Capitol High School before moving to Wilcox, Sask. to play defense with Notre Dame Hounds Program. A career-ending injury following the 2007-08 season shifted his course to become a hockey coach and stay in the sport.
Kelly began his coaching career with the Idaho Jr. Steelheads of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), sharing the bench with former Steelheads head coach and Kelly Cup Champion John Olver for their first two seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and winning the league championship during their second season. He then spent four seasons at Northern Michigan University as a Student Assistant Coach handling team video, travel logistics, as well as assisting on the ice during practice.
“It's not very often that a local hockey product gets to come back to town and coach the city's professional hockey team,” added Sheen. “I think that speaks volumes as to how the hockey culture here is evolving and growing. I know that Keenan is very excited to return to his hometown and coach in front of family and friends. Personally I couldn't be happier to have him on board. We already have a great working relationship and his work ethic is second to none. I know with him on board we are going to have a great season and will work tirelessly to bring this city what it has been longing for.”
“I can certainly be a pretty intense guy on the ice and on the bench,” said Kelly, “but at the end of the day it’s about building the relationship with the players: identifying what makes them tick, what really motivates them. It’s more so how you teach them, not what you teach them. It’s more getting the guys to believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it instead of the x’s and o’s behind it. You can’t be anything but yourself, and you have to be transparent and genuine.”
Kelly currently resides in Boise. His father, Michael, is the founder of Kelly Law Office where his sister, Shannon, also works. His mother, Janet, manages the West Boise Water Treatment Plant.The Steelheads are back for the 2021-22 season! Season tickets and flex plans are available ahead of the Home Opener on Friday, Oct. 22 against the Utah Grizzlies at Idaho Central Arena. Call the Steelheads Front Office at 208-383-0080 to plan your seats for the return of hockey to Downtown Boise! Stay connected to the Steelheads all summer long on IdahoSteelheads.com or by following the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.