Chelios hopes to be welcomed back in Chicago

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Chelios hopes to be welcomed back in Chicago

Chris Chelios heard the cheers when he stood with his fellow U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees at the Blackhawks game on Sunday night. But he figured it was a collaborative one and not so much for him.

Yeah, it was good. They set it up so it was bullet-proof, putting all of us together at the same time, Chelios said with a laugh.

Maybe, but it certainly sounded like that last rousing cheer, the one that came right after Chelios name was announced, was for him. It should have been, anyway. Because regardless of Chelios time with the Detroit Red Wings, he is still Chicagos own.

Chelios was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, one night after he and the fellow inductees watched the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime at the United Center. The last time Chelios was there, on his own Heritage Night, there were boos.

He hopes eventually hes welcomed back completely.

I hope everyone can forgive me for the Detroit thing. I just wanted to play hockey and that was the best situation for me, he said. Im one of their own. I hope theyre proud of me for what I accomplished as a Chicago kid.

The Evergreen Park product should be remembered for the entire body of work: the Stanley Cups, the All-Star and Olympic appearances and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Oh, and that longevity that has fellow inductee Keith Tkachuk calling him the godfather of U.S. hockey.

But Chelios said he deserves only so much credit.

I dont kid myself. People always ask, How did you last so long? I was on great teams, he said. We won those Cups in Montreal then to come to Chicago when things were going great, went to the finals and then Detroit, that was unreal to be traded to a team that won two (more) Cups. I wouldnt have lasted that long if not for the skill level and success our teams had.

And last night, at least, those cheers seem to have been for him.

Last night saw about 30 friends I hadnt seen in 35 years, he said of his homecoming. Its amazing. They kept track of my career and how proud they were that one of their own had made it.

Chelios vs. Tkachuk

Chelios and Tkachuk have been long-time friends, but that didnt mean they didnt have their on-ice skirmishes. Tkachuk remembered one at the old Chicago Stadium in which Chelios just about choked the life out of him.

He got me in a headlock and I couldnt breathe, Tkachuk said. I thought I was going to croak there, I was down to my last breath. He was strong for a little guy. We battled all the time but were really good friends.

Chelios remembers that night, too.

I had him; he jumped in a scrum late and I got him. I saw his face turning colors and I let him go right at the last second, Chelios said. I couldve let him pass out if I wanted to and he knew it.

A compliment to Toews

Chelios talked of the comparisons made between his former teammate Steve Yzerman and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. And he sees plenty.

He could be (Yzermans) little brother or his kid, said Chelios, who has trained with Toews in some summers. Hes got that look. Hes great to watch. For a kid of his age, to wear the C and what hes done and how hes handled it, I love it. Hes going to be a great player for a long time.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.