TORONTO – Chris Chelios spent parts of 26 seasons in the NHL and will officially be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. But his playing career isn’t over just yet.
The 51-year-old is still in fantastic shape and revealed Friday that he’s hoping to join sons Jake and Dean on a team in Europe once they graduate from Michigan State next year.
"Obviously my wife’s going to have a decision in it too," Chelios told sportsnet.ca after receiving his Hall of Fame ring. "Even if it would be for six months or something like that, I would for sure consider it. I still skate, I’m in relatively good shape.
"If they weren’t too embarrassed it would be a great story."
Chelios last played in the NHL in 2010, when he had a brief seven-game stint with the Atlanta Thrashers. He retired at the end of that season after a playoff run with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.
Around that time, he was approached by former teammate Igor Larionov with a chance to go to the KHL with his sons but the family decided it was more important that Jake and Dean complete their education. With both scheduled to graduate in the spring, they’ll be looking for an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Howe family by playing together next season. "We always play together as a line in the summers," Chelios said. "No one’s going to touch me, I’ll guarantee you that, because they’re pretty big kids."
Even though Chelios is a noted prankster, Brendan Shanahan has long predicted that his former teammate would eventually find a way to play with his kids. He doesn’t think Chelios is pulling anyone’s leg when he talks about a comeback.
"I guarantee he’ll do it – he’s still in shape," Shanahan told sportsnet.ca.
Chelios, Shanahan and Scott Niedermayer comprise the Hall of Fame’s class of 2013 along with longtime Canadian national team player Geraldine Heaney and former NHL coach Fred Shero. They were honoured ahead of Friday’s Leafs-Devils game at Air Canada Centre and will deliver their official induction speeches on Monday night.
It’s fair to say that Chelios is the only member of the group who is still on the lookout for a playing job. Niedermayer retired in 2010 at the age of 37 and is now an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks. While that allows him to stay close to the sport, he doesn’t miss the rigors of competing over a gruelling 82-game season. "I’ve never regretted the decision at all," Niedermayer said. "There is life after hockey, whether you can believe that as a player or not."
You would never know that when speaking to Chelios. As an advisor to hockey operations with the Detroit Red Wings, he now spends a fair bit of time around the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and firmly believes he could have played the last couple years in North America had he found a situation that made sense for his family.
The Chicago native believes the secret to his long career was that he never stopped loving the sport – and that fire clearly hasn’t been extinguished completely. You can expect to see him back competing as soon as his sons are ready to join him in battle.
"If for some crazy reason they don’t make it (to the NHL), which realistically there’s just not enough jobs, I’m staying in shape to go to Europe," Chelios said. "Pick a good country and take my whole family over there and go play with them there. Switzerland, something like that, who knows?
"We’ve done crazier things in our family."