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Coast To Coast With Cheli

Chris Chelios held a conference call with hockey writers this afternoon.  Entire transcript is below.  Among other things, he discussed winning the Cup in 2002.

If you look back, probably the biggest highlight has to be on the ice when we won the 2002 Cup with my two boys who were 15 and 14, or 14 and 13 at the time, to share that with two sons who love hockey as much as I do. That was definitely the highlight of my career. You know, not making it any more important than the Cup that I won in Montreal, but I celebrated that alone, and to do it with my two boys and my family, it was something special.


DAVID KEON: Good afternoon everyone. I’m David Keon of the National Hockey League’s public relations department and I’d like to welcome you to today’s call. Our guest is Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios. Thanks to Chris for taking the time today to answer your questions. Thanks to John Hahn of the Red Wings public relations department for arranging the call.

Earlier in the season Chris passed Phil Housely to become the regular season games played leader among American-born National Hockey League players. A couple of weeks ago he passed John Bucyk, moving into 9th place on the all-time games played list. When he opens the playoffs next week, it will mark his NHL-record 22nd season, passing Ray Bourque who appeared in the playoffs 21 times.

In his 23-year career the two-time Stanley Cup champion has missed the playoffs only once. He ranks sixth on the all-time list of playoff games played with 228 and at 45 will become the second-oldest player to appear in the playoffs behind Gordie Howe who played at the age of 52. The Red Wings have clinched a playoff spot for the 16th consecutive season, the longest active streak among North American pro sports. They have a shot to win the Presidents Trophy for the sixth time in the last 12 seasons.

Thanks to Chris for joining us to answer your questions.


Q. I just wonder, these Presidents’ Trophies are interesting because the Red Wings have done this despite a lot of personnel changes over the years. What do you think it is that makes the Red Wings able to win year after year like that?

CHRIS CHELIOS: Well, when I first got in the league with Montreal, you know, the attitude, the tradition of the organization, that carried over to Montreal; the pride obviously of winning the Montreal Canadiens jersey, and that was not the case two years ago when I first broke into the league with the Detroit Red Wings. The Ilitches took over as ownership and really took over the organization now, and from that standpoint I compare it to the days in Montreal where there’s a lot of pride, a lot of high expectations now, probably the most you’ll see of any team in the U.S.

So I think that has a lot to do with the success that the team has had over the past 12 years and the adversity, the challenge of losing players because of either tragedy or retirement or now with the new system not allowing to spend as much; the cap obviously affected our team probably more than most teams.

Q. On and off the ice it’s been a busy year for the team, as well as for yourself, with the stuff that you’ve been involved with off the ice in terms of the union at the same time, this is the kind of thing you would have done ten years ago, and if not, why not? I’m saying if the situation occurred ten years ago, would you have been as interested, or is there stuff that’s happened to you in the last ten years that’s made you get involved?

CHRIS CHELIOS: No, I think I learned my lesson early in my career I was mostly relying on the veterans, Bobby Smith, the Bob Gaineys, you know, I really tried to educate myself to do the best for the Players Union, support the union, look after the younger kids who basically when you come up like myself, just wanted to, you know, play and not be concerned or have anything to worry about except for the hockey.

I see the same exact situation now when I was a younger kid playing the first couple of years. I feel an obligation as an elder statesman in the league—if it was ten years ago, I would have felt the same way. I learned from the best, the Larry Robinsons, the Bob Gaineys that I spoke about.

You know, when this came about, I felt that obligation to do what’s best for hockey, the fans and everybody. That was my only intention from day one when this started 19 months ago and the lockout and what played out.

Like I said, there was never anything—I always wanted what was best for the players and the game and I don’t think anybody can question the players and the union after 23 years.

Q. One of the things that’s been talked about over the years is that it’s so difficult for guys to play the NHL season, and also be active reps for teams. It’s really stressful on guys to do that. I wonder if you see some sort of objective for that; some people suggested each team maybe be represented by a retired guy who is an alumni or something to lessen the load on the guys who are involved with the union.

CHRIS CHELIOS: Well, once we get through, obviously what we’re going through, it’s not a difficult task just to get all the information. That’s basically what a player rep’s job or responsibility is, is to get the information that’s coming out from the offices, that’s coming out from the NHL, and that has not been the case.

I guess we were taking things for granted, things were going so well in the Goodenow era that guys got a little slack. And when we came out of the situation, faced a little adversity, we really failed miserably as a union. And I don’t think it was that the guys didn’t care. I just think that there was no information and we were separated and; the fact that we have got so many Europeans, probably a third of the league if not more playing at the time.

You learn from your mistakes and that—I think it’s happened to us twice now. The Executive Committee is something that’s really going to have to be looked at, and I think those are the guys that were put in a very difficult situation. And I think that we are going to have to look at that long and hard where players that have such a personal stake and are so involved with the executive director. I think it’s important we get someone independent for the next lockout in my opinion that can come in, a group of professionals, and do the negotiations and take a lot of the burden off of the Executive Committee, because it is a great responsibility, a big responsibility.

I think by the end of the lockout right before we did sign the CBA, those guys, they are not lawyers, and those lawyers are paid to do that and that could have gone on another year, and I don’t think the players could have done that. That’s one thing that is going to be addressed this summer at the meetings is the Executive Committee’s role.

Q. Can you comment on a couple of the greatest highlights of your career so far, and what’s been a key or variable to your longevity and has it been a combination of things like diet, exercise, etc.?

CHRIS CHELIOS: I think it’s just a little bit of everything. There’s been a lot of guys over the past 10, 12 years that trained just as hard. I think I’ve been very fortunate that I met my trainer 14 years ago, T.R. Goodman, who basically was the first to do my type of training, I guess you want to call it circuit training.

I changed my training—I’ve had to train because I can’t do the impact training that I used to. I’ve been very fortunate to bounce back from the injuries that I’ve had.

But like I said, when you last 23 years, that’s just a little bit of everything and I think I look at other guys the tragedies that they have been through and the injuries they have sustained, I’ve been very fortunate and I’ve remained healthy. And I’ve just been able to fit in with the trainer in the last couple of years and not been able to uproot and move my family, which probably would been about the end of my career a few years ago if I had not been able to play with Detroit. The team has had a lot of success, and I think that’s what’s kept me around the longest for the most part I think.

Q. Is that one of the major highlights of your career, being able to stay with one team?

CHRIS CHELIOS: I think so. If you look back, probably the biggest highlight has to be on the ice when we won the 2002 Cup with my two boys who were 15 and 14, or 14 and 13 at the time, to share that with two sons who love hockey as much as I do. That was definitely the highlight of my career. You know, not making it any more important than the Cup that I won in Montreal, but I celebrated that alone, and to do it with my two boys and my family, it was something special. If you look at the guys and going through what I’ve gone through, it’s a special thing to do as a parent.

Q. And who was your pro hockey idol growing up, and why?

CHRIS CHELIOS: You know, it would have to be any one of the Blackhawks from the late 60s to early 70s, and I’m talking Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pit Martin, Magnuson, Tony Esposito. Back then, the games were not on TV. I rarely got an opportunity to see who was on the other teams. Montreal sticks out in my mind a little bit. It would have to be the Black Hawks and just going to the games with my father at old Stadium. That would be the most memorable that I have.

Q. Me being from St. Louis, the old Blues/Blackhawks games back then were pretty exciting.

CHRIS CHELIOS: Yeah, like I said I can remember the faces back when I was a kid. I didn’t know anybody’s names back then; I just liked the players on the Chicago Blackhawks, and at the time they had one of the strongest groups of individuals talent: Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito; so some great years to go up there watching them.

Q. Are you going to shoot for Gordie’s record?

CHRIS CHELIOS: No, I talked to Gordie Howe about two weeks ago and I promised him I would quit at 51. He’s Mr. Hockey.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the union, you spoke a little before, I just wanted to get an idea from you what you want to see the at end of this, and besides reorganizing the Executive Committee what you might want to see out of the union going forward.

CHRIS CHELIOS: I think to simplify it, I guess it would be to get everybody back on the same page again, and that wasn’t the case over the past 19 months. We went through a lot, you know, when you’re not playing, and there’s a lot of pressure on a lot of people, which side they took, who they supported, who they didn’t. But from this point on I think we have taken great strides in the last three or four months as board members from the Executive Committee. Every vote we’ve had has been unanimous. Everybody is on the same page and that’s a great sign of things to come.

Right now it’s in a little bit of limbo, but there’s always going to be people questioning if we’re functioning right now, but I’m dealing with guys in the offices and people in the offices and the office is running great. Obviously it’s a little more work for some of them but you know, they felt very comfortable there, and I think once the players realize that things are going well, we have to be patient and we’ll come out and we’ll find our new executive director, if that seems to be the route we’re going to go.

Like I said the key is that everybody is now on the same page and I mean 95 percent of the players that you talk to are in agreement now, and that’s something that has not been the case in the last 19 months, and that’s a big plus for our union.

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com