PHILADELPHIA — The impact of enforcers in the NHL seems to be waning by the season. Fighting is still part of the game, but needing a guy just to drop the gloves doesn’t always fit.
Then there’s Jody Shelley. The Philadelphia Flyers‘ veteran enforcer is in the middle of a three-year deal worth over $3 million, and though he’s not always in the lineup and sometimes finds himself a healthy scratch, Shelley is invaluable.
“His presence on the ice, I think, speaks for itself, and the way he plays the game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s a courageous job that he has. In the locker room, he’s a good influence. He can be a positive factor in the room.”
Shelley likely won’t be on the ice when the Winter Classic starts at 1 p.m. Monday against his last team, the New York Rangers. On a team built for speed and talent with plenty of guys willing to hold up the Broad Street Bullies moniker by dishing out punishment, Shelley is often the 13th or 14th forward.
But he doesn’t pout or complain.
“You learn early in your career that if you want to be a part of something, you have to be a part of it in all ways and not just under the bright lights,” Shelley said. “You’ve got to be ready and prepared and stay motivated and just be ready. That’s just part of the job.”
The veteran being a healthy scratch for more than half of Philadelphia’s games isn’t easy on Laviolette.
“It’s hard not being in the lineup; I hate delivering the news when that happens. And I’ve had conversations like that,” the coach said. “He does work every day, and he sets the right example for our young players. If it’s not going your way, you’ve got two roads to go down, and he takes the right road.”
The tough guy sets a positive example in the locker room in a lot of ways. Teammates lean on him for advice and as a calming presence.
Shelley pointed to former teammates of his like Lyle Odelein, Adam Foote and Luke Richardson as mentors for how he approaches his role in the room.
“You spend a lot of time watching these guys and how they act and how they carry themselves in all situations, and you realize how that has affected my career,” he said. “Maybe it’s given me the chance to play this long. I don’t know.”
This is a young Flyers team with a vast majority of the roster under the age of 30. And even with captain Chris Pronger out for the season with a concussion, veteran leaders aren’t hard to find. There’s Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and even Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr.
Shelley knows he doesn’t have the talent of those players, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to lead.
“There’s some days where you wonder where the league is going or what the league is made of, but you remember what those guys brought to the game, and you try to share some of that in different ways,” Shelley said. “You try to bring it from a different approach — maybe a different voice. I try to help out any way I can.”