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Stadium Series

Chelios plays for Blackhawks in alumni game

Received permission from Red Wings to play for Chicago

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS -- If it weren't for a coaching obligation in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, Chris Chelios might have pulled off an Original Six trifecta of outdoor alumni games this season.

Instead, the Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman will settle for two, beginning with the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Alumni Game at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Chelios, 54, played Saturday with the Chicago Blackhawks alumni team, which lost 6-4 to a team of former Minnesota North Stars and Minnesota Wild. He will play Friday for the Detroit Red Wings against the Colorado Avalanche in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Alumni Game at Coors Field in Denver.

Chelios began his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, whose alumni faced former Boston Bruins prior to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Foxborough, Mass., but he couldn't get there.

"The only thing that would've been better is if I didn't coach the [United States at World Juniors in Helsinki, Finland]," Chelios said, "I'd have caught the Montreal-Boston game and would've had three Originals."

Pulling on a Blackhawks jersey again was nearly as fun for him and those Chicago fans who don't harbor a grudge about his ties to the rival Red Wings. There are plenty of Blackhawks fans who haven't forgiven Chelios for playing 10 seasons with the Red Wings and now working in their front office, but the feeling is far from mutual.

Chelios, who played nine seasons in Chicago, still has a soft spot for his hometown and former Blackhawks teammates. That's why he sought and received permission from Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch and general manager Ken Holland to play for the Blackhawks alumni.

"Chicago fans ... there's no greater fans," Chelios said. "[This was] actually the first outdoor game the [Chicago] alumni's played, so it was just a great opportunity. I was skating with these guys over the past five years, but never in a big event like this. So, I was glad I had the opportunity and was able to get off my job [to do it]."

It was a kick for his former Blackhawks teammates too, particularly Jeremy Roenick. Chelios and Roenick became close friends when they played together in Chicago; each was traded during a transition period in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Seeing Chelios' familiar No. 7 Blackhawks jersey back on the ice was a thrill for Roenick, who also enjoyed wearing his No. 27 jersey.

"I think for both of us it was really special to put that jersey back on," said Roenick, who played with the Blackhawks from 1988-96. "Seeing the 27 on my back and the Indian head crest on my chest was really special, and I know [Chelios] ... his heart is so deep in Chicago. I know he works for Detroit, but he's a Chicago boy. He's in Chicago as much as he's in Detroit. I know Detroit means a lot to him, but I know that [Blackhawks] jersey means a lot to him."

It meant a lot to the Blackhawks' alumni association for Chelios, Roenick and other former stars to play.

"To have those marquee names come back and be a part of it was really special," said Troy Murray, former Blackhawks captain and current radio analyst. "You can just tell that Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick still have that amazing passion for the game and want to do well in every situation. [Chelios] looks like he could still play. He's in great shape. He's incredible."

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