After a playing career that lasted nearly three decades, Chris Chelios finally is hanging up the blades.
The 48-year-old, who appeared in 1,651 NHL games (the most by a defenseman), accepted a position with the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday to become an Advisor to Hockey Operations. A three-time Norris Trophy winner as the League's best blueliner, Chelios was a part of three Stanley Cup championship teams -- one with Montreal (1986) and two with Detroit (2002 and 2008).
Chelios finished his career with 185 goals and 763 assists. He also racked up 2,891 minutes in penalties. In 266 playoff contests, Chelios had 31 goals, 113 assists and 423 penalty minutes.
"I guess I've been dreading this day for a long time," said Chelios, who was drafted in the second round by the Montreal Canadiens in 1981. "For the past 27 years, I've been a member of the NHL. I never took it for granted one day of my whole career. I have no regrets."
A Chicago native, Chelios represented the United States four times at the Olympics (1984, 1998, 2002, 2006). He also represented the U.S. in three Canada Cups (1984, 1987, 1991), two World Cup of Hockey events (1996, 2004) and once at the World Junior Championship (1982). He made his NHL debut in 1984 and finished second to Mario Lemieux in the Calder Trophy voting as the NHL's top rookie.
Twenty-six years later, Chelios finally is calling it quits. Much like Steve Yzerman when No. 19 retired, Chelios immediately will join the Wings' front-office staff. It appears he'll spend a large chunk of the 2010-11 season working with prospects at Grand Rapids, Detroit's AHL affiliate.
"The luxury I have now is being able to stay in Detroit with my family and working for the Red Wings," Chelios said. "I watched what Stevie did, and I'm trying to kind of follow in his footsteps what he did. His first year was kind of a learning experience for him. He didn't know what he wanted to do. He tried to find his niche with the organization. I'm just going to take it day by day here and enjoy what I'm doing. I'm learning from the best."
Chelios was referring to Wings GM Ken Holland, who joined him at the podium Tuesday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. Holland congratulated Chelios on his Hall of Fame career and then expressed his excitement at having Chelios on board.
"It's a little bit of trying to figure out time commitment, figuring out what Cheli wants to do and where he fits in," Holland said. "Player development is one area that he's going to be very important to us, going to Grand Rapids and working with our young defensemen. It's not one defined job. His role is probably going to evolve over the course of the year. I think Chris is going to bring us a lot of different dimensions to our front office."
Chelios started last season with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, where he had 5 goals, 17 assists and a plus-34 rating in 46 games. He spent seven games late in the season with the Atlanta Thrashers, but realized the end was near after he went without a point.
"I think I decided (it was over) in Atlanta, when I was called up to Atlanta," Chelios admitted. "The role I had in Atlanta … I did it in Detroit because we had a great team. I still looked at myself as a significant part. To stay in Detroit, I would have done anything. I would have done that forever. But I wasn't going to do that for any other team. At least I saw that that's not what I wanted to do. I ended it the way I wanted to."
And make no mistake -- this is the end. Chelios was adamant that there will be no comeback attempts.
"I'm not going to leave the door open," Chelios said. "I'm 100-percent sure that this is it. I know that I'll never play in the NHL again. 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."
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