There are a handful of former Chicago Blackhawks players who moved on from the team but are still loved by fans – the crop of expatriates from the great post-Cup purge of 2010 comes to mind instantly. On Tuesday, another heralded former Blackhawk was given the highest honor, as Chris Chelios was named as one of five inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He got the invitation on his first ballot.
Chelios is the epitome of a Chicago player. He grew up in Chicago and watched Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita as a kid. From 1990 to 1999, he played for his hometown team, wearing the C on his chest for four of those nine years. He led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994 and won two Norris Trophies with them.
When he played two games with the Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids in December 2008, he became the oldest player in AHL history. His dedication to the game made him a Masterton Trophy finalist that season. When he retired in 2010, he was 48 years old and had played 1,651 NHL games in Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta. He even played with EHC Biel during the 1994-95 lockout, just as Patrick Kane did this past season.
There are Blackhawks fans who boo Chelios because of what they see as betrayal in the form of his trade to the Red Wings in 1999. Knowing that Chelios is a Red Wings advisor for hockey operations only makes things worse. The jeers sting Chelios, but he had his reasons for the trade. He knows that someday, those fans will forgive him for his decision.
But fear not, Blackhawks fans. Chelios’ son Jake is a Blackhawks prospect and is at prospect camp this week. We may soon see the Chelios name gracing the Indian Head jersey again in the future, and the young man will no doubt feel the same pride his father felt in wearing that sweater.