How Blackhawks Fans Should Remember Chris Chelios

On Friday night, the Blackhawks will celebrate the contributions of Chris Chelios to the organization.

At the preseason game against Detroit when this night was announced, the news was greeted with a mixed reaction. The reaction wasn’t a surprise, considering it was just days earlier that Chelios had accepted a position in the front office of the Red Wings and the end of Chelios’ career (pre-Wolves/Thrashers) was spent in a Detroit sweater.

And, as Blackhawks fans do, it’s the custom to tell any/everything associated with the Red Wings that they suck.

But on Friday night, the greeting Chelios receives should be different.

On June 26, 1990 the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Chelios in a trade that didn’t sit well with many fans. He came to the Hawks from Montreal with a second round draft pick in exchange for Denis Savard. Even though Chelios had won a Norris Trophy in Montreal, and was a Chicago kid coming home, the deal moving Savard out of town wasn’t popular with everyone at the Chicago Stadium.

Once he stepped on the ice, though, he was everything the Blackhawks needed in a captain.

Before Chelios arrived, the Blackhawks hadn’t played for the Stanley Cup since 1973. However, with Jeremy Roenick leading the scoring and Ed Belfour between the pipes, the Blackhawks returned to the Finals after the 1991-92 season. On that team, Chelios and Steve Larmer were alternate captains with Dirk Graham wearing the “C.”

(Oddly enough, Scotty Bowman was the coach of both the 1973 Canadiens and the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins.)

Fans memories are short, and most only remember that Chelios went on to win some hardware with the hated Red Wings. 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 a 37-year-old Chelios accepted a deal out of Chicago in March of 1999.

Let’s also not hold against Chelios that the Blackhawks didn’t do anything with the two first round picks they got from Detroit in the trade. If you’re old enough to remember what was going on with the organization in the late-90s and early parts of the 2000s, it was far from Chelios’ fault that the team was in the crapper.

When Chelios accepted the trade out of town, two men I consider horsemen of the apocalypse were running the Blackhawks into the ground.

Larmer was dealt to Hartford for almost nothing early in the 1993-94 season. They gave away Roenick in August of 1996. Belfour was dealt during the 1996-97 season for essentially nothing. In fact, the only trade in the dismantling that turned out relatively well was when Dominik Hasek was dealt to Buffalo for a draft pick that turned into Eric Daze.

What we should remember is that Chelios made the All Star team every season he was in Chicago until the bitter end. He played in seven All Star Games as a member of the Hawks.

We should remember that Chelios represented the USA in 1996 World Cup of Hockey and was captain of the USA’s team at the 1998 Olympics – as a member of the Blackhawks.

We should remember that he is one of only four players in Blackhawks history to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman (Pierre Pilote, Doug Wilson and Duncan Keith are the others). Only Chelios and Pilote have more than one Norris in a Chicago sweater.

We should remember that Chelios was, from 1995-99, one of the most respected captains in the history of the organization.

We should remember that Chelios is the Blackhawks’ all-time leader with 1,495 penalty minutes.

Chelios ranks third in Blackhawks history in scoring among defensemen with 487 points. He scored 92 goals, 13 of which were game-winners, and scored .733 points per game as a member of the Hawks. He is a Hall of Famer, and a large part of his credentials came in a Hawks sweater.

Let’s put his Chicago career into perspective against the two current star defenseman for the Hawks:

  Chelios Keith Seabrook
GP 664 436 424
G 92 47 33
A 395 170 128
Pts 487 217 161
 +/- +120 +62 +50
PIM 1,495 332 391
PP 37 7 10
SH 7 5 1
GWG 13 3 7
pts/gm 0.733 0.498 0.380

As you can see, Chelios was a prime-time player, and both the Chicago Stadium and the new United Center used to roar when he was on the ice.

When he steps back onto the ice on Friday night, the roar should return. Chelios did too much to win the love and respect of Hawks fans while he was here to be treated with any less love while being honored. His number may be on Seabrook’s back now, but his name should stay in a special place in the hearts of Hawks fans.

Why? Because he’s still a Blackhawks fan.

This story is from Bob Verdi’s piece on Chelios from the Blackhawks website.

Chris Chelios went to the parade too. When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last June, he was working for the Detroit Red Wings, and he still is. But if you were born in Chicago, and you played hockey in Chicago, and you call Chicago home, you can’t pass up a parade in Chicago, can you?

“I was back at our house in Michigan, and I told my wife, Tracee, I think I’ll go check it out,” Chelios recalled. “She understood. She looked at me and said, ‘You’re nuts. You bleed Chicago. Go ahead.’ So I flew in, took up a spot on Michigan Avenue along with about 2 million other people, and it was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

 “When we won the Cup in Montreal, I thought that was something. But the parade in the Loop, it was twice as good. Perfect. Beautiful. And after Tracee saw the highlights on TV, she didn’t think I was so nuts. A few people recognized me. Sunglasses can’t hide this nose. But they were friendly because they were in a good mood. I don’t know about my night in the United Center. I’ll probably be booed, don’t you think?”

Please, Hawks fans. When the old #7 steps on the ice, treat him the way we did the last time he did wearing the Indian Head. He earned it.

16 thoughts on “How Blackhawks Fans Should Remember Chris Chelios

  • December 16, 2010 at 9:05 am

    13 GWG out of his 92.. thats amazing

  • December 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I remember being devastated when Cheli left. Hurt even more that it was to Detroit. But, I do recall feeling, Cheli was so deserving of getting to hoist another cup that I was actually happy he might get the chance again. A class act his whole career, involved with rights and benefits for players old and new, epitomized what an NHL player should be on and off the ice, wherever he played. Wish I could be there. I felt like booing with the fans wednesday nite against the Av’s, I hope they rally behind this team and our ‘ole Cap. Thanks for everything you gave in Chicago Chris.

  • December 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I remember the state of the Hawks when Chelios was run out of town. Even though it was Detroit, I was glad for him. The team was being run into the ground and all my favorites had been s*$t-canned already. I hope the crowd makes him feel welcome.

  • December 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    cheli is totally a red wing a heart – lives in detroit, works for the wings & has a lot of money invested in the city. it took him coming to detroit to realize his full potental as a human. thanks to the crappy 90’s hawks management for chris chelios!!! with the way things are currently going with another regime of crappy management – hopefully we will have toews wearing the winged wheel. he’s to another hawks captain becoming a red wing!!!!!

  • December 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Great points in your writeup. I agree that he should get a good welcome back.

  • December 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    What folks also forget is that Chelios coming to the Wings was just as bad for the Wings fans. For years, Cheli gave the Wings everything he had and more. It wasn’t Avs level but was close. Took a while for the fans to warm to him in Detroit. But he did the same way being an upright guy and playing hard every night. As a fan thats all you can ask, that your team and its players does the best that they can every night.

  • December 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    remember him as a 2-time cup champion with the wings.

  • December 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Great article Tab! Hawks should never be ungrateful to those who were committed to the Indian Head. Since he was 37 when he went to the Wings I guess the Hawks had his better years, penalty minutes and fights for the Indian Head. That is the reception that he should get. Its like Big Buff coming back to play against the Hawks. Who can boo the guy that sent Pronger into boards in last seasons finals? Regarding some of the of the comments like the one from shermgor99 well dont be hasty. Lord Stanleys’ banner is in Madison. Its not flying to Detroit this year sorry to say. Even with all the injuries if we beat only one team for the remainder of the season it is going be the Wings cause it is kind of in the Wings DNA. When they come to Madison that is when they clearly see that it is chicken wings with bq sauce. Look and see…. Come back and comment after tonights game

  • December 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Way to go you tasteless Blackhawk fans…booing a man who grew up in your city..invested in business in your city and gave the prime of his hockey career wearing the Blackhawk crest….makes me proud to be a fan of the classiest team in the NHL…the RED WINGS

  • December 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Great game,,if your a Hawks fan. I agreed with the fans last nite, they weren’t tasteless, they let the man know that treason is punishable. Obviously not by death, but they let him know it hurt, and then warmed up to him. I had almost forgot, thanks to one of my favorite Chicago radio staples, thanks M. North, I remembered. What happened to his post? Maybe our Hawks can take this win and string together a nice run, and show the rest of the league last year wasn’t a fluke. If our injured can come back strong and make the playoffs this team will be hard to beat in any series. (yes, I remember the Av’s last week). Crawford and the D protected a 3rd period lead for the first time in a long time.

  • December 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Unfortunately, there were way too many idiots in the stands last night at Chicago. A true hockey fan loves his team more than he hates the opposition. A true hockey fan will recognize a hometown hero when he/she sees one.

    Disgraceful. Every Chicago Blackhawks fan should be embarrassed by the complete lack of class and integrity during the ceremony. It gives true hockey fans in Chicago a bad name.

  • December 18, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Rob: Treason? I hate to say this, but you’re an idiot. You have no class nor do you have any sense whatsoever. You are a pathetic excuse for a hockey fan and a complete embarrassment to those in Chicago who actually have an ounce of integrity. You sound like nothing more than a spoiled child who didn’t get his way.

  • July 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    The fact that there are more “wings” comments then Hawks comments proves where his loyality lies.

  • Pingback: Blackhawks Fans Continue to Be Split On the Legacy of Chris Chelios

  • December 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Yes it’s double standards now.

    The AAA hockey league in Detroit for youth is divided in two now between the Juniors and the NCAA. The Juniors have the high performance league, and the NCAA has the Elite League. We both have three AAA teams in Detroit and we travel to play in our own leagues.

    My son and Jason Woolley’s son play in the Elite League for Detroit on separate teams.

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