His opponents hated playing against him, but his teammates absolutely loved him.
He was a huge fan favorite in Chicago and Detroit, and it’s fair to say Chris Chelios left an indelible mark on the game of hockey. Chelios’ career spanned over 26 seasons, and he wasn’t just a great hockey player.
He was a leader and always played with enormous passion. He won the hearts of fans in both Chicago, where he started his career, and in Detroit, and only one defenseman (Zdeno Chara) has played more regular-season games in league history than Chelios’ 1,651.
When growing older, Chelios was a respected mentor to his younger teammates, and he was a coach’s dream.
But he did just about anything to win. Everyone respected Chelios, which says a lot, given how tough and mean he could be on the ice. And when you learn about his childhood hero, it all makes sense.
Chelios once revealed who he patterned his playing style after, and to everyone’s surprise, it wasn’t even someone in hockey.
“The Chicago Bears had a linebacker by the name of Dick Butkus,” Chelios said per Elite Level Hockey. “He was the toughest, meanest, nastiest competitor I’ve ever seen. Every kid on the south side of Chicago wanted to be like Dick Butkus.
“I tried to play hockey the way Dick Butkus played football.”
The Chicago Bears weren’t a great team when Butkus played with them, but they were tough, and they never gave up.
And Butkus was the star in the defense. He was not only a great player but also a nightmare to play against, and he took every opportunity to strike fear into opponents.
Remind you of someone?
“He was a warrior,” said Craig Hartsburg, former NHLer who also coached Chelios with the Blackhawks. “He played every shift as if it was his last. In my mind, he was the best defensive defenseman in the league.”