April 17, 2024

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Chris Chelios says Detroit Red Wings trade 'wasn't my first choice'

Chris Chelios says Detroit Red Wings trade 'wasn't my first choice'

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CHICAGO — Chris Chelios basked in glory as his No. 7 was raised to the rafters.

The former NHL star, who helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup, took center stage at the United Center in an afternoon ceremony that culminated with the Chicago Blackhawks retiring the number he was synonymous with during his decade with his hometown team.

“The day I was traded to Chicago was the greatest day of my life,” Chelios said of the trade on June 29, 1990, when he left the Montreal Canadiens for the Windy City, where he would play for a decade until a trade at the 1999 deadline brought him to Detroit.

“I just think how unique it is,” Chelios said after the ceremony. “It's one thing to have your jersey retired but another thing to do it in your hometown.”

During his speech, Chelios gave a shout-out to former Blackhawk Patrick Kane, who signed with the Wings in November, saying: “This jersey looks funny on you, but it will grow.”

Chelios advised Kane when he was making his decision this fall about signing with the Wings. Chelios ended up playing for a decade in Detroit, helping the Wings win Cups in 2002 and 2008.

“I should have thanked the Ilitch family, which I forgot, but my mind was racing,” Chelios said. “I think the Ilitch family knows how much I appreciated the time I spent there and how wonderful they were to me, too.”

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Among those attending the event was Dennis Rodman, who played for the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls during his career. Michael Jordan couldn't accomplish that.

“MJ is here in spirit,” Chelios said of his close friend, the Bulls icon. “I'm hanging from the rafters with his shirt. We talked yesterday. He's always been there for me. We'll be celebrating on his boat next week.”

Chelios remembers how he got to know Rodman and Jordan during his days with the Blackhawks. They and the Bulls play at the United Center.

“We had a relationship with every Bulls team,” Chelios said. “Michael came out a lot, and Dennis came out all the time. We would come back from training and we would fight with them before games. Rodman, he was a special character.”

Chelios (62 years old) was accompanied at the ceremony by his mother, Susan. His wife, Tracy. And their four children. Cindy Crawford was among the friends at the event, Chelios said.

The ceremony began with a long video tribute that highlighted the strong side of Chelios, who recorded 2,891 penalty minutes in 1,651 matches during his career. He first played for the Canadiens (1984-1990), then moved to the Blackhawks (1990-1999), Red Wings (1999-2009) and Atlanta Thrashers (2009-10). Tributes from the likes of Eddie Belfort and Jeremy Roenicke played throughout the clips, naturally centered on Chelios' contract with the Blackhawks.

“There's no doubt that I was lucky that I broke into Montreal at the time that I did,” Chelios said. “I arrived in Montreal and it was like getting a degree at Harvard because of the great players, coaches and leaders. It developed me into the player I was. By the time I got to Chicago, I was ready to take over. . .

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“My trip to Detroit, it wasn't my first choice, but I had a sister with cancer and it was the easiest way to get back and forth. Detroit, with its history and great ownership — I'm glad Kaner did this now too, because it took some of the pressure off me. I'm so glad he's doing it.” Very good job.

Chelios summed up his career — three Stanley Cups and stints with three of the original six teams — in one sentence: “No question, I've been incredibly lucky.”

Contact Helen St James on [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available at: Amazon, Company: Barnes & Noble Victory books. Personal copies are available via email to her.

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