Each time Chelios took the ice in those 1,651 contests, he did so with a passion and determination for the sport for which he developed a love while growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago.
The three-time Norris Trophy winner was among three players in the Class of 2013 elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday, joining Scott Niedermayer and Brendan Shanahan. Also inducted is female player Geraldine Heaney and in the builder category, Fred Shero.
For Chelios, the honor caps a playing career that took him from his hometown of Evergreen Park to Mt. Carmel High School to 26 seasons in the NHL—including nine with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1990’s. Chelios also was a member of the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Atlanta Thrashers before retiring in 2010. He was an 11-time NHL All-Star and represented the United States in four Olympics.
“He’s the best American-born player ever,” said former Hawks teammate and fellow member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Eddie Olcyzk. “He played in every era and played any way he wanted—skill, tough, dirty. And he was a winner. That is ‘Cheli.’ ”
Chelios was traded from the Hawks to the Red Wings in 1999 and is currently an advisor to hockey operations for the Wings.
“I grew up watching Bobby Hull and (Stan) Mikita,” Chelios said in 2011. “(Chicago) is where I’m from. This is home (and) it’s always going to be home. I loved growing up here and I love coming back.”
Chelios still receives a chilly reception from some Hawks fans after once famously saying he would never play for Detroit.
“Does it bother me? Absolutely,” Chelios said of the fans’ jeers. “But I understand it. I swore I’d never play for (the Wings) and then things changed overnight. The biggest reason going to Detroit is not only was it a great team and great opportunity, but it was four hours from here and I was able to commute and see my family. They have to forgive me sooner or later.”
Chelios’ son, Jake, is participating in the Hawks’ prospect camp this week in Chicago.