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Chelios honored with Masterton nomination

by John McGourty

Chris Chelios is the oldest current NHL player and the active leader with 1,616 regular season games played. Chelios video
At 46 years of age, Chris Chelios is the oldest current NHL player. He’s also the active leader with 1,616 regular-season games. Only five men have appeared in more NHL games than Chelios.

Chelios began his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1984, playing a dozen games. He played seven seasons with the Canadiens, nine seasons with his hometown Chicago Blackhawks and nine with the Red Wings. He's the only man to play 400 games with three different clubs.

Chelios is the Red Wings' nominee for the 40th Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which honors the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Each NHL team has a nominee. The decision is made annually by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

In those 1,616 NHL games, Chelios has 185 goals and 763 assists for 948 points, has 2,873 penalty minutes and is plus-351. He has 69 power-play goals, 13 shorthanded goals and 31 game-winners.

Many believed Chelios was through when he missed most of the 2000-01 season with a knee injury. Since then, however, he has played 435 regular-season games for Detroit, and another 56 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"The biggest thing is that I've been able to have so many great years with the Red Wings' organization and team," Chelios said. "There's nothing better than winning, and I've been given the opportunity to contribute to a winning team. The fact that I've never had to uproot for the past eight years has also been important. For me, hockey is still as much fun as it has ever been.

"Playing for this organization has been great," Chelios said. "The Ilitches run a first-rate operation. Mr. Ilitch had the final call for them on bringing me in from Chicago. That was a big question for them because I was so identified with Chicago, but it has developed into a great relationship.

"The Ilitches helped my kids get into school, Cranbrook, one of the best in the country. Obviously, I love it here. I love being part of the Red Wings’ family. You won't find a better group of owners in sports, or a family more dedicated to their team."

Chelios was once of the NHL's best offensive defensemen, but his role has changed over the years in Detroit. He averaged 12:41 minutes per game this season, with roughly one-third of that time (3:57) being spent in shorthanded situations. Despite averaging only 18 seconds of power-play time, Chelios has managed three goals, including a game winner, and nine assists for 12 points.

"My role has changed with the changing of the rules," Chelios said. "It's almost like hockey has become baseball where you have guys with specific roles. Now, we have specialists on power plays and penalty kills. If you can't specialize, there's no ice time.

"My minutes are down because of that and that's the biggest adjustment that I've had to make, just being used in defensive situations. But it's an adjustment that I think I've made successfully and, as a result, I've been able to contribute to one of the best teams in the League.

"I used to be considered an offensive defenseman and I think my skills in that area are still good, when I've been given the opportunity through injuries or whatever. I showed that last year. Just because I'm not on the top-four defensive group on the Red Wings, I might be on another club. We're just that deep and talented."

Chelios understands that he's being used strategically, as well as providing veteran advice and instruction to younger players. He knows his role is important and communicates to others the importance of specific roles.

"It's an honor, and I've been very fortunate to play on the top-four penalty-kill unit with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski,” Chelios said. I've been on the other side of the coin. I played a ton in Chicago, and this is far better."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has many attributes, including motivator. When he's fired up, Babcock could get the bench to attack the net. Chelios appreciates that, but he's so happy to still be playing with a competitive team that he needs little encouragement.

"Mike Babcock is a very good coach, but I'm more of a self-motivator," Chelios said. "Mike holds you accountable. You can't hide anywhere. He demands hard work and accountability. That's what he brings to this team.

"Over the years, I've put the pressure on myself to perform and compete, and that's always been in me."

Chelios won Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in 1986 and the Red Wings in 2002. He played in the Stanley Cup Final with the 1989 Canadiens and the 1992 Blackhawks. In 246 Stanley Cup Playoff games, Chelios has 31 goals and 113 assists for 144 points, to go along with 411 penalty minutes and a plus-46 rating. He has 13 playoff power-play goals, three short-handed goals and six game-winners.

Chelios was named to the 1985 NHL All-Rookie Team and the NHL First All-Star Team in 1989, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2002. He was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1991 and 1997. He appeared in the 1985, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2002 NHL All-Star Games. He won the James H. Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman three times (1989, 1993, 1996), and his plus-40 rating in 2002 led the NHL.

He spent two years playing for Tier II Moose Jaw before attending the University of Wisconsin. Chelios helped the Badgers to the 1983 NCAA championship on a team with Bruce Driver, Pat Flatley, David Maley and Paul Houck. Chelios and the Badgers were NCAA runner-ups the year before, when they lost to North Dakota and goalie Darren Jensen.

Chelios has represented the United States in international competition 10 times. He has captained the last three Olympic teams and Team USA in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He represented the United States at the 1982 World Juniors and the 1984 Olympics. He also played in Rendezvous-87 and the 1988 and 1992 Canada Cups, as well as the 1994 World Championships.

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