Skip to main content

Captain America: Chris Chelios


Chris Chelios was a skating contradiction. On one hand he was no-nonsense S.O.B but on the other he was a sentimental sap. 

Chelios has fused these two character traits into a Hall of Fame hockey career. His emotional passion for hockey has created a hockey resume that leaves most jealous: A Stanley Cup championship with Montreal in 1986 and two more in Detroit in 2002 and 2008. Three Norris Trophies, four first-team NHL All-Star selections and eleven appearances in the All-Star game. He was the first American born defenseman to win the Norris Trophy. He became the first blueliner in Hawks history to lead his team in scoring. He also participated in Canada Cups, World Cups and in four Olympics. 

You get no argument here that he is the greatest American born hockey player ever.

It certainly wasn't an easy journey to the NHL for the Chicago-born Chelios. His father came to Chicago from Greece and became somewhat of a rink rat at the old Chicago Stadium. His love for the game was passed on to Chris. Chelios started playing hockey in high school but by the age of 15 his family moved to San Diego. 

Needless to say there wasn't many hockey opportunities in San Diego. He tried out for the University of San Diego hockey team but didn't make the team! He had all this raw ability but never had any coaching. So Chris left home and ventured to Canada. He eventually wound up in Moose Jaw. Playing under coach Larry Billows, Chelios showed great improvement over 2 years in Moose Jaw. He also caught the eye of the Canadiens, who picked him 40th overall in the 1981 draft. 

He honed it further at University of Wisconsin and later with the United States National Team that represented the country at the 1984 Olympics. The Canadiens were very patient with their diamond in the rough and didn't rush him. He joined the Habs following the Olympics 

Chelios spent seven seasons with Montreal, learning from the likes of Rick Green, Larry Robinson and Jacques Laperriere. 

"Those were great years," Chelios says. "I listened and learned a lot." 

Chelios developed a reputation as a talented and tireless player--logging heavy ice time--but was someone who had a hot temper and often took a stupid penalty. Entering the 1996-97 season, Chelios ranked 32nd all-time with 1,926 penalty minutes. 

Chelios was traded to the Hawks on June 29, 1990, for Denis Savard, a move that proved mostly unpopular at the time because of Savard's popularity. 

It was tough for Chelios to accept too. 

``I should be the happiest guy in the world, but I`m really very sad about leaving Montreal,`` Chelios said. ``But it was once my dream to play in Chicago.`` 

Despite losing their favorite player in Savard, Hawks fans quickly embraced the fiery Chelios and his leadership abilities emerged. Soon enough he was named captain -- an honor he held with Montreal as well -- for the 1995-96 season. 

Chelios never has taken his NHL job for granted. And he loved to play for Chicago. Before long he sounded totally different than the day he first arrived in Chicago. 

"Every time I look back and see the position I'm in -- every single game -- I'm just as excited as I was the first game I ever played in," Chelios says. "I'm fortunate to be playing in my hometown and to be playing for the Blackhawks. To me, it's a great honor to play in the NHL and especially for the Blackhawks." 

Sadly, the rebuilding Blackhawks traded Chelios on March 23, 1999 to the Detroit Red Wings. Chelios was aging and looking for a contract extension that the Hawks weren't willing to give. 

"Never in my life did I imagine I would leave the Blackhawks and play for another team," an emotional Chelios said "It's not what I wanted."

Chelios in a Red Wings jersey soon did look right. He played in the Motor City for 10 more seasons, winning Stanley Cups in 2002 and 2008.

Towards the end of the decade Chelios, an extreme fitness nut, openly mused with the idea of playing into his 50s, bettering Gordie Howe's amazing record of playing until the age of 52. His ice time was severely cut in Detroit, so in 2009-10 he moved on to Atlanta hoping to extend his career. But he could not make the lowly Thrashers team, playing in just 7 games and spending the rest of the season in the minor leagues.

It may have been a whimper of an end for one of hockey's greatest warriors. But he played on, for the love of the game.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M