This week, it was announced that former Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Chris Chelios will be inducted into the National Hockey League Hall of Fame.
There is no doubt that Chelios is one of the best defenseman all of time. He played in the NHL for 26 seasons. Multiple individual and team honors litter his resume. In terms of American-born players, most of Chelios’ numbers at are the top of the list. For a long stretch, he was the face of American hockey.
Chelios had not only the honor of playing on three Original Six teams (Canadiens, Blackhawks, Red Wings) he also made an impact on all three. He wore the captain’s “C” for the Blackhawks and the Canadiens.
Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz released a statement on Chris Chelios’ upcoming induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2013:
On behalf of the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization, we want to congratulate Chris Chelios and his family for this incredible achievement. Chris defined toughness, perseverance and commitment. We are grateful and proud that he spent so many years of his incredible playing career as a member of the Blackhawks.
Today, Blackhawks fans are mixed on what the legacy of Chelios should be. To most Blackhawks fans, Chelios, a Chicago area native, did the unthinkable by accepting a trade to the Red Wings, the team’s most hated rival.
Some say he hung around the game too long. His stint with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves is proof of that.
Should they remember the player who was defensive stalwart for nine seasons? Or should they think of the guy who played for the hated Red Wings? I still remember being up in the 300 level at the United Center and hearing Chelios get booed everytime he handled the puck.
Chelios did the unthinkable when he brought the Stanley Cup to Wrigley Field as a Red Wing. That moment still sticks in the craw of many Blackhawks fans. A few seasons, ago the team had their Heritage Night celebration and Chelios was greeted with a combination of boos and cheers.
Tab Bamford, who wrote the book, 100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, said this in defense of Chelios:
What many fans forget is that Chelios had the Red Wings on a no-trade list for most of his time in Chicago and only relented to the trade when management had flushed the organization so far down the toilet that Chelios,who was 37 when dealt,accepted a deal out of Chicago.
Chelios is currently the advisor to hockey operations for the Red Wings. Chelios’ sons, Jake and Dean, are currently on the prospects camp rosters for the Blackhawks (Jake) and the Red Wings (Dean). Being a part of the rival team’s organization alone is enough for most fans despite all of his accomplishments in an Indianhead sweater, to release a healthy amount of vitriol anytime Chelios’ name is mentioned.