It still rubs Chris Chelios the wrong way that some Blackhawks fans won't forgive him for going to the hated Detroit Red Wings in 1999 in a trade he requested.
Chelios was back at the United Center on Sunday night as part of the festivities for his induction today in Chicago into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame along with former Hawks teammate Gary Suter, Keith Tkachuk, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and broadcaster Mike Emrick.
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Chelios was booed last season at the UC during the Heritage Night ceremony to honor his career with the Hawks.
"Does it bother me? Absolutely, but I understand it," Chelios said. "I swore I'd never play for (Detroit) and things changed overnight.
"They're going to forgive me for that someday, they've got to. I played for the USA in other buildings during these World Cups and Canada Cups and Boston hated me, Philly, but when I'd go there with the USA jersey they all cheered for me, so they've got to forgive me here sooner or later."
Chelios saw the direction the Hawks were heading in 1999, and what followed his departure was some of the worst years in franchise history. While some fans are quick to blame Chelios for contributing to that, they forget that late owner Bill Wirtz and former senior vice president and general manager Bob Pulford traded away Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour and allowed other top players such as Joe Murphy, Bernie Nicholls and Suter to leave.
"It started with Jeremy and Eddie leaving," Chelios said. "I fell into that situation where the Hawks decided to bring (Doug) Gilmour and (Paul) Coffey in and it didn't work. They were going to go with the young guys and it was just time for me to move on. Everybody was leaving and it was a transition stage."
Eagle to be honored:
The Hawks announced a Heritage Night for Hall of Fame goaltender Ed Belfour on March 25 prior to the game against Nashville.
Belfour was at the UC on Sunday to support friend and former teammate Chris Chelios, who goes into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame today.
"It's means a lot to me," Belfour said of the planned Heritage Night. "It's always a great feeling to be remembered. I have a lot of special memories here in Chicago and a lot of fun times."
Belfour wouldn't miss Chelios' big night after his former teammate flew to Toronto from Germany last month for Belfour's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"He kind of took me under his wing when I was a rookie and I learned a lot from him," Belfour said. "He's a great leader, always has been, and my favorite teammate throughout my career."
The Hawks were credited with outhitting the Sharks 34-28 in Sunday's win, led by Viktor Stalberg's 6. ... Nick Leddy had 5 hits in a big performance, adding an assist while playing more than 27 minutes. ... Sean O'Donnell, John Scott and Bryan Bickell were scratches. Bickell sat for the fifth game in a row.