During his earlier playing days (waits for “Paleozoic Era” jokes) with the Chicago Blackhawks, Chris Chelios claimed that he would never play for the Detroit Red Wings. Instead, he played parts of 10 seasons in the Motor City compared to nine and a half campaigns as an elite blueliner in the Windy City.
Let’s face it, sports are ultimately frivolous forms of entertainment, so throwing the term “betrayal” around is as hyperbolic as comparing athletes who fight through injuries to “warriors.”
Yet that might be a decent way of describing how Blackhawks fans felt (and feel?) about Chelios. After all, when the team announced that they would hold a heritage night in his honor (tonight as the team takes on the Red Wings), Chicago fans greeted the news with “an overwhelming amount of booing.”
The team has done a fantastic job of mending the fences with its former stars after the death of Bill Wirtz, honoring players such as Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Bob Probert and more. There were plenty of emotions flying around during those nights, but it’s hard not to wonder what kind of reaction he might receive.
Don’t forget that he definitely made a big impact on the team in the ’90s, something the team discusses.
“I’m very proud to be honored in this way by the Chicago Blackhawks organization,” said Chelios. “This will be a special night for my family and I and I’m happy to be able to share it with the great fans of the Blackhawks.”
Chelios spent nine of his 26 National Hockey League seasons in a Blackhawks uniform, collecting 487 points (92G, 395A) and 1,495 penalty minutes in 664 regular-season games from 1990 to 1999. His 1,495 career penalty minutes during the regular season are a franchise record while his 395 assists and 487 points are third-most among Chicago blueliners. Chelios holds the single season record by a Blackhawks defenseman with 58 assists in both 1992-93 and 1995-96. He also posted a point in 15 consecutive games during the 1995-96 season, a franchise record by a blueliner.
It’s understandable that Blackhawks fans hold a grudge against the great defenseman, but maybe for one night, they can remember the good times instead.