Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Chris Chelios’ Category

Nearly Ten Years After Trade, Chelios Still In The League — And Still A Red Wing

In Chris Chelios, Red Wings on September 10, 2008 at 2:11 pm

At the trading deadline in 1999, Red Wings GM Ken Holland made quite a splash, as he tried to bring a third straight Stanley Cup to Detroit. He brought in Wendel Clark, a former Red Wings nemesis, from Tampa Bay. He traded for defenseman Ulf Samuelsson. He snagged goalie Bill Ranford. And he dealt for a 37-year-old defenseman that many feared was way too past his prime to be of any use in the long term. How much longer would Chris Chelios even be IN the NHL, let alone be effective?

Well, that was over nine years ago, and Chelios, who just signed another one-year deal to stay with the Red Wings past his 47th birthday in January, will retire having played more seasons with the Red Wings than with the Chicago Blackhawks or Montreal Canadiens — the teams with which he had been so closely associated. It’s like Carlton Fisk, the venerable catcher, and the sudden realization that he was a Chicago White Sock longer than he was a Boston Red Sock.

All the players Holland acquired on that trade deadline day in ’99 were long in the tooth. And the strategy failed; the Red Wings lost in the second round to Colorado. And since Chelios was so entrenched in the Chicago scene, being a native son, a restaurant owner in the Windy City, and an almost nine-year Blackhawk (including several years as team captain), his acquisition looked like a stopgap measure. Few figured Cheli would warm up to playing for the arch rival Red Wings, or cozy up to the city of Detroit.

Chelios himself wondered that. On more than one occasion, early in his Red Wings career, Chelios admitted to there being quite an adjustment in both his personal and his hockey lives. There was the “fish out of water” feeling for a couple years. But then he opened up a couple restaurants in town, the team won two more Stanley Cups, and there’s that new distinction about being a Red Wing longer than anything. Oh, he still admits to Chicago being “home”, in his heart (who can blame him there?), but Detroit runs a very close second.

Still, all this brings to light just how amazing Gordie Howe’s longevity was, as if we needed another reason to heap praise on Mr. Hockey.

Howe retired from the NHL — for good — at the end of the 1979-80 season. He was 52. He played in all 80 games for the Hartford Whalers that season, and chipped in 15 goals. And yet Chelios, for all his worth, will still be five years behind Howe in terms of being the oldest player to lace up an NHL skate. And, in fairness to Howe, who was a regular player until the day of his retirement, Chelios will return to the Red Wings in ’08-’09 as a part-timer. He may only play in about half of the team’s games, if that.

“He won’t play 25 minutes a game anymore,” Holland told the media yesterday about Chelios’s participation with the Red Wings this season. “But can he play 15? Absolutely.”

Wendel Clark, Ulf Samuelsson, and Bill Ranford are all long ago retired. You’d expect that, of course, from deadline day acquisitions some nine years ago. They were old, after all, when the Red Wings traded for them. But Chelios was old, too. He was 37. Yet he will be on the Wings’ roster on the 10th anniversary of the trade. Maybe that’s not Gordie Howe great, but that’s still pretty damn unbelievable.

We’ll See If McCarty Is Cut From Same Cloth As Chelios, Or From Redmond

In Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek, NHL, Red Wings on January 9, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Darren McCarty is making news, sort of, in attempting a hockey playing comeback, with Flint of the IHL. He hasn’t played in an NHL game since April 2006, with the Calgary Flames — who signed him after the Red Wings let him go following the 2004-05 lockout. He’s had some off-ice trouble, and one wonders how much that contributed, in the long run, to his current career derailment. Regardless, he says he’s going to give it another try. Maybe another NHL team will give him a call.

McCarty is 35 years old.

Chris Chelios has never had to comeback from anything to continue his NHL career. He’s managed to keep gainful employment, first with Montreal, then with Chicago, and now in Detroit. It’s fitting that he should only have played for Original Six teams in his 22-year (so far) NHL career. Very, very fitting.

Chelios will soon be 46 years old.

It’s possible, though far from a slam dunk, that Chelios will challenge Gordie Howe’s record for being the oldest man to lace up NHL skates. Howe was 52 years and six days old when he played his last regular season game for the Hartford Whalers in 1980. Howe then extended his career by about a week while the Whalers were getting ousted by Montreal in the playoffs.

But just the fact that we can even entertain the idea of someone approaching Howe in terms of longevity is amazing enough. And I wouldn’t put it past Chelios to think about it, if he’s still playing his irascible style of hockey a few years from now.

I just thought it was interesting that Darren McCarty is in the same sentence as the word “comeback”, when he’s 11 years Chelios’s junior.

Chelios has not only played a long time, but he’s done so without any major injuries

Today, the Red Wings announced that goalie Chris Osgood has been signed to a three-year extension, keeping him in Detroit thru the 2010-11 season, in which he’ll turn 38 years old. His partner in net, Dominik Hasek, will soon be 43. All-World defenseman Nick Lidstrom, who along with Chelios helps keep the heat off Osgood and Hasek, will be 38 this year. So the Red Wings’ two goalies and two of their best blueliners will be, by the end of the month, a combined 161 years old. I’ll do the math for you: that’s an average age of 40.25 years.

Mickey Redmond, reliable broadcaster, wasn’t blessed with the same genes as the aforementioned quad of players. Redmond was plagued by back problems and didn’t play a game past January 1976, when he was but 28. He tried it one last time in training camp of 1979, but he only lasted a few days before he was forced to quit. Also in camp that September was Frank Mahovlich, 42 and a couple years removed from his last game in the WHA. The Big M got into some exhibition games, but couldn’t make the final cut.

The 40+ year-old NHL player is becoming more and more frequent. Better training regimens, nutrition, and technology have contributed to this. It should also be noted that flying around the country in a private team jet doesn’t hurt, either. When Mahovlich broke into the NHL, for example, air travel in the league was still in its infancy. Many clubs still used the train to get from city to city.

Back in the day: McCarty taking care of business with Claude Lemieux

I wish McCarty well as he climbs his way back into the NHL, which is his ultimate goal. At 35, he’s far from washed up, if he commits himself physically and mentally. Someone asked him at last night’s Red Wings game if he’d consider playing for the Colorado Avalanche, a longtime rival, if they called.

“Beggars can’t be choosy,” he said. “I just want to play hockey somewhere, anywhere.”

So did Redmond, and so did Mahovlich. But their bodies wouldn’t allow it. Fortunately for Chelios, Lidstrom, Hasek, and Osgood — and for us — they’ve been blessed with strong, durable stock.

Almost as strong as, say, a certain man from Floral, Saskatchewan, who wore number 9.