In the June 11, 1981 edition of the Montreal Gazette, Chris Chelios’ name only appeared in the middle of a list of players, selected by the Montreal Canadiens, at the NHL Entry Draft the day before.
Chelios was the 40th player selected overall, and clearly the hidden gem of the draft. The Canadiens were lucky to get him, considering they had already made four picks (three in the first round) before selecting him.
The highlight of the media attention at the draft for the Canadiens at the time was Mark Hunter. But even hockey was taking a backseat, as the major news in the Montreal sports world was the 1981 baseball strike, just 24 hours away. The threat of the strike made the first page of the sports section, while the draft was one page over.
After being a star junior defenseman with the Moosejaw Canucks, Chelios joined the U.S collegiate ranks. Under “Badger” Bob Johnson, Chelios won the WCHA Rookie of the Year award, and was an NCAA champion by his sophomore year.
By this time, Canadiens GM Serge Savard knew what kind of a talent his predecessor Irving Grundman had drafted.“We’ve got this kid Chelios, that could play for this team right now,” Savard said feeling that Chelios could easily find himself a roster spot.
Even noted Montreal writer Red Fisher saw it in Chelios in an 1983 article, when he said, “He’s the best example of low drafts on high talent.” Fisher developed a strong media-player bond with the blueliner throughout his career. More on that further on.
Chelios got a first taste of the NHL during the 1983-84 season, seeing 12 regular season games, and fifteen playoff games as the Canadiens fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders in the Conference Final.
The following season, he was in the NHL to stay and made the All-Rookie Team, and finished second to Mario Lemieux for the Calder Trophy. He would get his first taste of Lord Stanley’s mug a year after that as the Canadiens took their 23rd Stanley Cup.
1988-89 was a bitter-sweet season for Chelios. He won his first Norris Trophy, and a First-Team All-Star birth, but the Canadiens fell short in the Cup Final against Calgary.
By the end of the 1989-90 season, the party was over in Montreal for Chris Chelios. One side will tell you that team president Ronald Corey was tired of Chelios’ alleged extracurricular activities, and forced Savard to trade him.
Savard tended to say otherwise, going on doctors advice that the knee injury the defenseman suffered in February would shorten his playing career.
So in June of 1990, Chelios was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Denis Savard. The deal was a head scratcher to fans, media and Canadiens coach Pat Burns.
Twenty years later, Serge Savard must be wondering where his doctors got their medical degrees.
1249 regular season games, four First Team All-Star selections, two Norris Trophies and two Stanley Cups after the trade, Chris Chelios has finally hung up his skates at age 48!
During his retirement speech on Tuesday, Chelios singled out the Montreal reporter who always saw something in him and believed in him from day one.
"The one guy I’d really like to thank is Red Fisher out of Montreal, who, if I could ever have a personal relationship with a member from the media, it’s about as close as it could come," Chelios said.
"Red was there from Day 1, really took care of me, actually. Offered me advice, pulled me aside a lot, was a great friend to my wife, at the time I didn’t have any children.
He really showed me a lot in how to deal with the media. I failed sometimes, but for the most part, I took it to heart what Red told me. Very sarcastic sometimes, but always gave me good advice.
So Red, I just want to wish you and your family the best. Hopefully this will get back to you, and I can’t thank you enough what you did for me."
Chelios officially accepted a position with the Detroit Red Wings, where he won his other two Stanley Cups, on Tuesday to become an Advisor to Hockey Operations.
“I'm 100-percent sure that this is it. I know that I'll never play in the NHL again,” he said. “It's not a hard decision. I couldn't have played any longer than I did. I accomplished what I wanted to. Basically, there's nothing left.”
There’s two things left however to finish his playing career, eventual enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Both of those should come by 2013.
Congratulations Mr.Chelios, on 27 wonderful years.
and of course, how could we not include this?!
More on Chelios’ retirement
Montreal Gazette – June 11, 1981
Montreal Gazette – June 4, 1983