Chelios confesses: Hometown booing bothered me
Chris Chelios, who always took special pleasure being booed in hostile opposing buildings, admits now it bothered him to hear the jeers all those years in his hometown at the United Center when returning with the Red Wings following nine special seasons with the Blackhawks.
Chelios was ready for anything Friday, but the cheers far outweighed the booing when the Hawks honored the future Hall of Fame defenseman with his Heritage Night.
"Come on, folks, let's let bygones be bygones here, all right?" Chelios said during his brief speech.
Chelios knew beforehand that there would be boos.
"I've been booed before and I understand the whole Detroit-Chicago thing and I know I said I'd never play for Detroit, but things change quickly," Chelios said. "I left on great terms with the Wirtz family and that's all that mattered. I had nine great years playing in my hometown."
Chelios said he meant it at the time when he once said he would never play for the hated Red Wings, but that's where he wanted to go in 1999 when he asked the Hawks for a trade during a contract dispute.
"I really hated them just like everybody else in Chicago," Chelios said. "The decision I made to go to Detroit, a lot of it had to do with being close to my family and it was an easy trip for my parents. I had a sister going through treatments for cancer, who we eventually lost, and that was the easiest place to go back and forth. Plus they had a great organization and a great team.
"I went from hero to zero overnight and I understand that, but to be honest with you, I was pretty surprised after the nine years I put in here. I think not one fan would have hated me as a Blackhawk and then, boom."
Chelios was a dominant defenseman in his years with the Hawks, earning two Norris Trophies but never winning a Stanley Cup.
"Unfortunately the Stanley Cup was the only thing I regret," Chelios said. "It would have been nice to finish that off in Chicago; maybe then they would have forgiven me for that move to Detroit.
"But I got to experience the Hawks last year winning the Cup like everyone else and it was great. They're probably not going to believe when they hear me say this, but I was cheering for those Hawks right up to the end."
With Chelios playing to the age of 48, it meant Hawks coach Joel Quenneville got to play against him. Chelios also got to play against 22-year-old Jonathan Toews.
"I guess I should be thankful I didn't catch him in his prime," Toews said, knowing Chelios' reputation as one of the nastiest defensemen of his time.
"Geez, I always loved the way he played," Quenneville said. "His anticipation was amazing. I remember when he was a young kid in Montreal playing against him in Hartford and thinking this guy is going to be amazing."