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.