By Jay Zawaski–
Friday night, the Blackhawks will honor former Hawk captain, All-Star, and Norris Trophy winner Chris Chelios. It’s a no brainer, right? He was a well respected captain, an All Star, a local kid made good, and perhaps the best American born player ever. It just makes sense to honor him. Right?
No. For all he achieved as a Blackhawk, Chelios has made his choice. He’s a Red Wing, and he’s happy to be a Red Wing.
They can have him.
In March 1999, Chelios did what he swore to Mike North he’d never do…play for the Red Wings. Yes, the argument can be made that he had no choice, and was strong armed by the Hawks to take the trade. OK, that’s fine. We’ll let THAT violation slide.
Fast forward to his ten seasons in Detroit (he only played nine in Chicago). Cheli won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings. Whenever he’d get his day with the Cup, he seemed to take pleasure in bringing the Cup “home” to Chicago, and rubbing it in the faces of Hawk fans. Sure, maybe Tom and Jane Cub fan wants to see the shiny Cup at Wrigley, but to REAL Hawks fans, the ones who hold the Cup in the regard in which it should be held, it was a slap in the face. It was a hated rival rubbing it in our faces. He knew it, and did it with a smile.
Not enough? Ok. At the home opener of the 2000-01 season, the Blackhawks honored their 75th Anniversary team. All the Hawk greats were there, including Chelios, who was competing against the Hawks in the game that night. When the Anniversary team lined up for a team photo, Chelios refused to hold up his Hawk sweater, forever ruining what should have been a classic photograph for Hawk fans. Try to find that photo in a souvenir shop now. You can’t.
Why? Because no Hawk fans wants that hated Winged Wheel in their basement.
Now, Chelios works in the Red Wing’s front office. Call it sour grapes, call it what you want. Over the last decade plus, I’ve learned to hate Chris Chelios. Maybe it’s because I never left the UC, like so many others did. Maybe it hurt too much to see the “quintessential Blackhawk” enjoy his time with the team I hated so much. Whatever it is, he got what he wanted.
He’s a Detroit Red Wing. Let him stay there. Enjoy the Motor City Chris. It’s all yours.