Hall of Fame defenceman Chris Chelios reflects on his career on the Sportscage

Chris Chelios travelled on an extended path to achieve a long and distinguished career in hockey.

Beginning from his hometown of Chicago, the legendary defenceman eventually ventured north of the border, soon finding himself with Moose Jaw Canucks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) (1979-81).

Chelios would later enter the National Hockey League in 1983, with the defenceman remaining in the NHL until the 2009-10 campaign.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Chris Chelios, right, congratulates teammate Joe Murphy after Murphy scored the game and series winning goal for the Blackhawks at 10:02 of the third overtime period against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, April 24, 1996 (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press via AP) Mike Ridewood

On Monday, Chelios was a guest on the Sportscage with Michael Ball.

Chelios told Ball that the turning point of his hockey career occurred on the beach in California, where he ran into Bobby Parker, a defenceman who was with the Canucks at the time.

The chance encounter with Parker was the driving point that led him to Moose Jaw.

“Right place at the right time,” said Chelios.

“It was just as simple as running into a guy at the beach, giving my phone number to the coach, Larry Billows in Moose Jaw at the time.”

Chelios and Parker became defensive partners in Moose Jaw for two seasons.

In his two seasons with the Canucks, Chelios had 131 points (35G-96A) in 108 games and was named the Best Defenceman in the SJHL in 1981.

Moose Jaw represented a turning point in his career, according to Chelios. He noted the prior year that he got cut by three of four teams in Canada, and before he met with Parker on the beach in San Diego, the 61-year-old was content with his career on the ice up to that point.

Chelios was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the 1981 NHL Draft (40th overall). Before turning professional, the defenceman played with the University of Wisconsin, winning an NCAA title with the Badgers in 1983.

During his storied career, The Hall of Famer played for three of the Original Six NHL franchises: Montreal, Chicago, and Detroit.

Breaking into the league with a team like the Canadiens with many legendary hockey players was special for Chelios to begin his professional career.

“I think I was lucky to come into the league as a young player and learn from the best players like Bob Gainey, Larry Robinson, Guy LaFleur, they’re just good leaders and Jacques Lemaire was my coach, you can’t do anything but listen to them because the success they had.”

Chelios spent seven years in Montreal, winning a Stanley Cup (1986). He was involved in a blockbuster trade during the summer of 1990 when he traded to his hometown Blackhawks, with the Canadiens receiving forward Denis Savard.

Playing in Chicago for eight seasons (1990-99) was a great situation for Chelios.

“Everyone I started playing with, my coaches, my teammates, my friends, my family, we were all here, there’s not a lot of guys that get that opportunity, especially here in the U.S. to play for their home team.”

In March of 1999, Chelios was dealt by the Blackhawks to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for defenceman Anders Eriksson and a pair of 1st round draft picks.

The trade revitalized Chelios’ career during his 10-year stint in Detroit, where he won two Stanley Cups. (2002,2008).

Fitness was a trademark during his career, which Chelios attributed to a meeting with a trainer, T.R. Goodman, who was working with former Estevan Bruin Alan May.

After speaking with Goodman, Chelios began training with him the next day, and they continued to work together for 20 years.

The Hall of Famer said he fell in love with the training regiment.

“It was basic circuit training, somewhat like boxing training,” noted the former three-time Norris Trophy winner.

Chelios felt he was ahead of the curve with his training and felt others began catching up with him when Goodman began training other players in the league.

Besides his accolades in the NHL, Chelios became one of the most decorated players in American history, suiting for Team USA at the Olympics on four occasions (1984, 1998, 2002, & 2006).

The American was a part of the squad that claimed the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, which Chelios called a big moment for American hockey since that was the only time he was a part of an international team that defeated Canada.

After retiring from professional ice hockey, the five-time NHL first-team All-Star joined the Red Wings coaching staff. Later, he began a career in broadcasting, starting with FS1 and then moving on to ESPN. He was laid off recently due to budgetary cuts earlier this summer.

The list of accolades for Chelios will grow. The Blackhawks announced they will be retiring his #7 jersey before their matchup against the Detroit Red Wings on February 24, 2024, making him the ninth player in franchise history to receive the honour.

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