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Centennial Portraits

Chris Chelios, Jari Kurri portraits unveiled

Color paintings of 100 Greatest NHL Players will be revealed on every Monday in 2017 @NHLdotcom

As part of the NHL Centennial Celebration, renowned Canadian artist Tony Harris will paint original portraits of each of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian as chosen by a Blue Ribbon panel. will reveal two portraits each Monday in 2017.

This week, the portraits of defenseman Chris Chelios and forward Jari Kurri are unveiled in the 16th installment.

Chris Chelios is the all-time NHL leader in games played by a defenseman (1,651). He played 664 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, 578 with the Detroit Red Wings, 402 with the Montreal Canadiens and seven with the Atlanta Thrashers, and won the Stanley Cup three times, once with the Canadiens and twice with the Red Wings. He won the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL three times and made the First or Second All-Star Team seven times.

He also helped the United States win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and won a silver medal with the U.S. at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Chelios played in the NHL until age 48, matching Gordie Howe's NHL record of playing in 26 seasons.

In his NHL100 profile of Chelios, author Kevin Allen writes that the defenseman's reputation didn't live up to reality:

"The public perception of Chelios was that he was one of the League's most despised villains. The truth was Chelios was always among the NHL's most respected players. Seemingly everyone who played with him told tales of his leadership and aura.

"Former Detroit Red Wings tough-guy forward Darren McCarty said he hated Chelios when the defenseman played for the Blackhawks because Chelios always targeted Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, Detroit's most skilled players. After Chelios was traded to the Red Wings in 1999, McCarty was stunned to discover the troll under the bridge was actually a kindhearted person who made it his daily mission to take care of his flock.

Artist Tony Harris said when it came to painting Chelios, putting him in a Blackhawks uniform was an easy decision.

"Several players chosen for the Top 100 had great careers with different teams and arguments can be made as to which uniform they should be depicted in," Harris said. "Chris Chelios is one of those players. He made an impact in Montreal, Chicago and Detroit. I think being from Chicago and becoming captain of his hometown team had to count for something."

Jari Kurri played 17 seasons in the NHL. The first 10 were spent with Edmonton, where he won five Stanley Cup championships, four of them as Wayne Gretzky's wingman.  

Kurri led the NHL with 68 goals in 1985-86. One season earlier, he won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and scored 50 goals in his first 50 games; he finished with 71, setting an NHL record for a right wing and ending up two behind Gretzky for the League lead.

Kurri scored 601 goals in his NHL career. But as author John MacKinnon wrote in his NHL100 profile, Kurri was a fabulous two-way player who played a 200-foot game before the term became popular:

"Somehow, for a player who would spend so much of his career playing with Wayne Gretzky, Kurri had a two-way game that managed to be understated, a triumph of lethal efficiency over flash and dash. His young Oilers teammates swiftly recognized the quality he brought. They certainly valued it.

" 'No question,' goaltender Grant Fuhr said of his longtime Edmonton teammate. 'Jari did a lot of the defensive work, which freed Wayne up to be as great as he was offensively.'

" 'A lot of our guys got credit for the offensive side but not the defensive side. Wayne was great defensively, Mess [Mark Messier] was great defensively. Jari played from net to net, which is a hard way to play the game. But he did it.'

"So well-honed was his puck sense, so cunning his play away from the puck, that Kurri made his all-around game look deceptively easy -- which may have been why his contributions rarely provoked the hoopla that surrounded teammates like Gretzky, Messier, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey."

Harris said he had a certain moment in mind when it came to painting Kurri.

"Like many goal scorers, speed, a quick release and his ability to anticipate the play set him apart from grinders," Harris said. "In this painting I was hoping to capture the moment before receiving a Gretzky pass and scoring one his 600+ NHL goals."


Chris Chelios



Jari Kurri


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