Jack Kielty Cannons

Jack Kielty: Violent at the Point of Attack, Graceful in his Leadership

By Grant DelVecchio

Aug 31, 2023

Jack Kielty speaks softly and carries a long pole. 

Three seasons into his PLL career, Kielty’s long-stick diplomacy has involved locking up opposing teams’ number one options on a weekly basis. 

“I think the thing about defense that is so gratifying is coming at it with an old school mentality of your responsibility being to protect the guy standing in your goal. That's how I approach it; I have a job when I'm on the ball to not let that person get to somebody that I care about,” Kielty explained.

Nobody’s done a better job of protecting their goalie this season than Kielty. Opponents have shot 9.5% with Kielty as the closest defender. To put that further into perspective, Michael Sowers shot 0-for-7 when guarded by Kielty. Rob Pannell shot 0-for-4. Jeff Teat only attempted three shots against him in their two regular season matchups.

It hasn’t taken long for Kielty to rise from 2nd round pick in 2021 to one of the four finalists for this season’s Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year award. The New Jersey native is one of only a handful of Cannons who have been with the organization since it joined the PLL in 2021, and is a main reason the Boom Squad has been able to go from worst to second in the standings in one year.

Kielty may not be the most loquacious leader, but he still manages to set the tone for the Cannons by bringing a steadfast sense of urgency and accountability to every meeting, practice and game. He’s the quintessential leader in the sense that he makes his teammates want to be better by the way he approaches his craft. 

“Jack's the type of guy where when he speaks, everybody listens. He's so intense in the best way. He's the first one ready in the locker room and the first one out of the tunnel for us. His physicality and focus has been top notch for us this year,” Kielty’s fellow captain Marcus Holman detailed. 

The 6’2”, 220-pounder has never been hesitant to initiate contact. When you dodge against Kielty, you’re going to feel his presence. Kielty has three words tattooed on his arm: “Violence and Grace”. Passed down from his father, Tom, those three words encapsulate Kielty’s philosophy as an athlete and a defenseman. 

“Violence and Grace is something [my dad] said to me before literally every game since I was probably five. You have to understand that we play a violent game, and that probably the most important characteristic from a defensive perspective is being able to physically impose your will on somebody. And then you also have to have the grace to execute a game plan and to treat the game and your opponent with respect. Ultimately, the cards will fall where they do,” Kielty said.

When Kielty does get beat, it’s never because he got out-muscled or ran out of gas. His competitive spirit and controlled aggression was cultivated playing backyard ball with his older brothers Adam and Ryan. This season he’s especially benefited from being fully healthy in the offseason after needing back surgery just five weeks prior to training camp in 2022. 

“My offseasons are harder than my seasons, that's the way I've always approached sports, whether it was high school, college, or now the pros,” Kielty remarked.

“I have the privilege of guarding the best player on every single team each week, and as a competitor, that's all I've ever wanted. Really, that's what gets me up in the morning is knowing at the end of the week I get to guard probably the best player in the world that weekend. I consider that a tremendous honor.”

There’s no denying that the influx of new players and coaches has been vital to the Cannons success this season, but Kielty has served as the roots of the revitalization. He’s everything Coach Holman has talked about as far as what it means to be a Cannon. Gutsy. Hard-nosed. Competitive. Team-first. 

Kielty’s reaction to being acknowledged by his peers as one of the best defenders in the game was true to his character.

“Without question, I’m very honored to be on that small list [for DPOY] ... I really appreciate the recognition from my peers. I'm glad that they think I'm a competitor out there, but ultimately, when I see an award like that, it's just gratification for how far we've come as an organization and certainly how far we've come as a defense,” Kielty affirmed.

Captain Kielty and the Cannons are already the story of the summer, but they are far from satisfied. A new season begins on Monday in Boston, and Kielty is more than prepared for his first taste of the postseason. 

“Looking at the last Atlas game, we let them back into it at the end of the game, and I can tell you right now, when that game ended it didn't feel like a win to me,” Kielty recounted. 

“When we finish these games, I want it to feel like we took the life out of teams. When you let somebody back into a game, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth, especially for me. So I'm really excited. I've got a lot of respect for the Atlas. I know they're hungry, but we're hungry too.”

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