2013 HHOF Profile: Chris Chelios

chris_chelios

Hockey has always been considered the Canadian sport as it was created in Canada and is played throughout the country. It is almost a right of passage in Canada to put on a pair of skates and play hockey in house league. For Canadians it is a way of life and because of that the NHL is full of great Canadian players. The Canadian system is one of the best and most sophisticated in hockey and they consistently develop great players. Their dominance on the sport has fallen off in recent years though as a result of the development of the sport in other countries. The USA has been one of the countries that have begun to really challenge the Canadians in international hockey. The trend is seen in the World Juniors, World U20 Championship to those outside of Canada, where the US team has won two of the last four gold medals while Canada has won 0 Gold in that time. Hockey in the USA is growing by leaps and bounds but it was the early pioneers for the Americans that would make all of the difference. These players showed that playing the NHL was a possibility if you were from the US and that being a great player was a possibility as well. There are plenty of great American players but only a few received the recognition of being some of the idols of the American game. These few players shaped the game in the USA and gave USA an identity on the ice. One of these men will go into the Hall of Fame this year as a representation of exactly what USA hockey was and what it became. Chris Chelios came through all of the bumps in the road on his way to the NHL and perfectly represents how far hockey in the USA has come. After starting his hockey life in Illinois the Chelios family would move to California where Chris found it very hard to find hockey. This became a theme for the young defenceman as his entire junior career was a struggle to find a place to play. He would eventually find it in Canada where he would finally take steps towards becoming one of the best defenceman in the NHL. Now Chelios enters the Hall of Fame and serves as a symbol of those few great stars from the USA that made way for the countless US stars in the game today.

Chris Chelios had a tough road to get to the NHL but eventually he would make it and for the teams that he played for that was good news. Chelios was not the big bodied defenceman that many US star are today only standing at 5’11” and weighing in a 191 lbs. Still he had a toughness that more than made up for his physical attributes. His history in constantly fighting for every bit of ice he could find would shape the way he played the game. After moving to California and never receiving any scholarship offers because there was no team at his high school he would not give up. For most players when there is no team there is little other option for them and they stop playing. Add the fact that there were rarely opportunities to play to the fact that Chelios was a smaller defenceman and the walls were up for him. For Chelios it was a challenge to be overcome and he would do just that when he moved to Moosejaw to play for the Moosejaw Canucks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. This would be his break as he would bulk up before moving to Moosejaw and after a good season would get drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. From that point on Chelios would build his legend as one of the toughest, sometimes dirtiest, players in the NHL. He was the perfect player for the era as he would take advantage of all of the things referees let go to make up for his short stature. The strategy would work and Chelios would end up with almost 950 points and would become one of the longest lasting players in NHL history. Playing 1,651 games would put him into a tie with Gordie Howe for the most NHL games played. This attitude would help him to break through the US system and into the NHL as he would become an example for Americans and a symbol for the American game putting him into the Hall of Fame.

 

Chris Chelios, D (1983-2010)
Detroit Red Wings (1998-2009)
1,651 GP
185 G
763 A
948 PTS
2,891 PIM
3-Time Stanley Cup Champion (1986, 2002, 2008)
3-Time James Norris Memorial Award [NHL’s Best Defenceman] Winner (1988-89, 1992-93, 1995-96)
Mark Messier Leadership Award Winner (2006-07)
11-Time NHL All-Star
Olympic Silver Medalist (2002)
Also Played for Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and Atlanta Thrashers

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