Chelios' chance of a lifetime

Friday, 01.02.2009 / 11:00 AM / Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- If Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios had his way, the NHL would play an outdoor game at Wrigley Field every season.

"Why not do Wrigley every year because there's so much history here and the place sells out and people from all over the country come to see this park," Chelios said after the Wings beat Chicago 6-4 in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. "You could probably pick some other parks such as Fenway (in Boston) and the old Yankee Stadium, but Wrigley is right there, no doubt."

Even though the 46-year-old Chelios played just one period of Thursday's game, finishing with five shifts totaling 1:57 of ice time, he was thrilled to have the opportunity of a lifetime in his hometown.

"It was perfect, and although those Stanley Cup games and that All-Star Game at the old Chicago Stadium (in 1991) during the Gulf War might beat this Winter Classic for me, personally, this was no doubt very special," Chelios said. "It was one game, but an exciting game everybody was talking about it."

Chelios was in rare form with the media that had congregated at his locker following the Wings' victory.

"I think this event will sink in when I'm finally across the street at (Chicago sports bar) Murphy's Bleachers celebrating with my friends and family," Chelios said. "That's when it'll really feel like home again. There were a lot of Detroit fans and Chicago fans and the fact we were able to win it, certainly puts you in a better mood. I'm sure after all is said and done and the players for the Hawks reflect on this game, they'll also be very happy that they were a part of it."


Chelios, who played with the Blackhawks for eight-plus seasons before joining Detroit in 1999, will never forget the scene that transpired right before him while standing on the ice during the pre-game anthems.

"I'll remember standing on the ice and looking at the surrounding rooftops and the bleachers and being in the middle of Wrigley Field," Chelios said. "It's not a normal everyday thing. I mean, we've all skated in outdoor rinks, but you're not going to get a better setting than this."

In the opening period, when Detroit fell behind, 3-1, Chelios could tell the Blackhawks not only wanted to get the early lead, but to gain a psychological edge with its physical play.

"You could tell Chicago wanted to play physical and wanted to get the crowd into it," he said. "We're fortunate that we didn't go down by three goals. But we settled down and were fortunate to get back in it. When we tied it up, we began to grab the momentum and that was big. We had to stay away from taking any more penalties and we certainly got better as the game wore on."

The game marked just the fourth appearance of the season by Chelios, the League's oldest player. The soon-to-be 47-year-old has 185 goals and 948 points in 1,621 games spanning 25 seasons.

Contact Mike Morreale at