DETROIT -- Chris Chelios was asked what he would miss most about playing for the Red Wings, he responded quickly with one word.
The 47-year-old defenseman announced during a Wednesday press conference at his downtown Detroit restaurant that he would not be returning to the Wings for his 26th NHL season. However, the three-time Stanley Cup champion had only good things to say about his former team.
“I was with the Detroit Red Wings at the best time you could possibly be, that’s the way I look at it,” Chelios said. “And I’m very fortunate to be a part of the last 10 years here.”
Chelios played in 578 games with the Wings, recording 21 goals, 131 assists and 613 penalty minutes. He helped the Wings to Cup championships in 2002 and 2008.
Chelios leads all American-born NHL players in games played, with 1,644. He is the only player to skate in 400 games with three different NHL teams (Detroit, Chicago and Montreal). Chelios only skated in 28 games this season, but he said he was happy with the end result.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I was one game shy of winning the Stanley Cup, and it couldn’t have gone any better.”
The former assistant captain said that from the start of the season, it was a struggle for him to get into the line-up. Chelios talked about how he broke his leg in the preseason, and didn’t perform the way he needed to after his return.
He didn’t blame coach Mike Babcock for his line-up decisions.
“It had to happen,” Chelios said of his lack of game action. “If I would have come out in exhibition and scored every game like I did two years ago, I would have assured myself a spot, it would have made it tough, but I never made it tough for (Babcock) to keep me in the line-up.”
Chelios remains confident that he will play in the NHL next season.
“Whether I can get the opportunity in the right situation in the right city, it just remains to be seen,” he said. “That’s all it is. There’s no question I feel I can play.”
If he doesn’t land a spot on an NHL roster, Chelios said that he has spoken with USA Olympic team general manager Brian Burke and could have a significant role with the team during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Either way, Chelios wants to stay within the game.
“I can’t see myself ever not being involved with hockey,” he said.
However, Wings' fans can feel slightly more comfortable about him leaving, since Chelios hopes to play in the Eastern Conference next season.
“I would like to play in the East, only because of travel, and because it would make it a lot easier to get back and forth to my family if need be,” Chelios said. “There’s no question it’s a lot easier on the body and the mind, and getting back and forth.”
Even if he plays next season, Chelios made it clear that he is far from saying goodbye to Detroit.
“I’m not done here,” he said. “I think I have a lot more to bring to the city once I’m done playing. I’m proud of the restaurants and what they’ve done, and what I’ve done for the community, and I’ve tried to represent myself and the Detroit Red Wings in the best manner that I can. Hopefully I’ve done that.”