Chelios soaks up the love during jersey retirement ceremony


Former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios has his jersey retired during a ceremony before an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP

Chris Chelios clearly never worries about a clock hitting 0:00.

Former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios has his jersey retired during a ceremony before an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP

He didn’t worry about it after getting cut from a team or two in his youth.

Former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios has his jersey retired during a ceremony before an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP

He didn’t worry about when the Blackhawks told him maybe he should hang up his skates before trading him to Detroit in 1999.

Former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios has his jersey retired during a ceremony before an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP

And he most definitely didn’t worry about it when his No. 7 jersey retirement speech at the United Center on Sunday went a wee bit long.

Former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios has his jersey retired during a ceremony before an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP

Chelios has enjoyed every precious moment during an incredible life, so he wasn’t going to let a little timer stop him.

“It’s so hard to believe this is actually happening today,” Chelios said.

After being driven onto the ice with his mom, Chelios walked on stage, hugged emcee Pat Foley and soaked up a tremendous ovation. Joining him at center ice were wife Tracee, his four kids, and former teammates Gary Suter, Denis Savard, Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour. U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Downers Grove native Cammi Granato was also on stage.

Celebrities in luxury boxes included Dennis Rodman, Mark Messier, John McEnroe, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Wayne Gretzky, who received a thunderous ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard in the first period.

Michael Jordan planned to attend but had to back out because of a family matter.

“It’s one thing to have your jersey retired,” Chelios said. “It’s another to do it in your hometown. I’m not going to say it was a dream come true, because it was never a dream. …

“For my family, everyone in Chicago, kids I played with, coaches I had — I’m a piece of them. I know in some way that they’re proud of me, and I’m grateful for that.”

One highlight of Chelios’ speech came when he recognized former Hawks Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith. Seabrook, who also wore No. 7, donned that number Sunday — only it had “Chelios” stitched on the back.

“I’ll never forget the day Brent Seabrook called me and asked if he could wear my number,” Chelios said. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Geez, I don’t know this kid, but what the hell?’

“I’m glad I did. What a career Seabs had, leading that team to three Stanley Cups.”

Down the road, we’ll no doubt see Seabrook’s 7 next to Chelios’.

“I would love to (see that),” Chelios said. “No one wore that jersey better.”

Chelios then acknowledged Patrick Kane, who was sitting with the Red Wings on the visiting bench.

“One day you’ll be standing here same as me,” Chelios said. “But just don’t go stealing my thunder today.”

Chelios is extremely proud to be just one of two Chicagoans to have a number retired by their hometown. The other? The Bears’ Dick Butkus.

Incredibly, Chelios ran into two of Butkus’ nephews Sunday morning while at Chicago Bath House on Division Street.

“It was like I was looking at a ghost,” Chelios said. “So if that’s not a sign from Dick, I don’t know what is.”

Chelios began playing hockey because of how much he loved to skate. He credits his mom for taking initiative and purchasing a pair of $5 skates that were two sizes too big so the family could save money.

After a while, dad Constantine saw Chris had potential.

“Dad then bought the best pair of skates, put me on a team and the rest is history,” said Chelios, who scored 92 goals and racked up 395 assists in 664 games with the Hawks from 1990-99 before being traded to the Red Wings. He went on to win two Stanley Cups in Detroit, but his heart will always remain in Chicago.

Chelios was bummed Jordan couldn’t attend and also obviously wished his dad, who passed away in 2017, was able to enjoy this moment.

“He probably would’ve grabbed the mic away from me and started talking himself and giving himself the credit,” Chelios said. “He was a heck of a dad. … But you can’t have anything.

“Fortunately mom is 90 and she’s stuck it out. She’s had some close calls over the last couple years, but I’m just glad one of them was here to see their name go up in the rafters.”

Chelios’ banner rose to join Glenn Hall (1), Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson (3), Bobby Hull (9), Savard (18), Stan Mikita (21), Tony Esposito (35) and Hossa (81) at the top of the UC.

“This moment with my family, we’re never gonna forget this,” Chelios said. “Top memory ever. I couldn’t be more proud to represent you — the Chicago Blackhawks — (and) the city of Chicago as one of your own.”

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