Chris Chelios is one of hockey’s all-time greats. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, after playing 1,651 NHL games and 266 NHL playoff games.
He won three Norris Trophies and three Stanley Cups—but for a long time, it seemed like he wouldn’t even play in the NHL. In fact, he was ready to quit hockey, but a big coincidence brought him back to the game.
At age 17, Chelios tried for a startup college hockey program in San Diego. He didn’t make the team, but weeks later, he saw the team practicing in the sand. He started talking to a player who had made it into the team, Bobby Parker.
They started talking, and Chelios revealed that he had quit hockey. Bobby Parker was homesick, and he was headed back to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to play Tier II junior. If Chelios had been there one day later, he wouldn’t have seen Parker, as he was heading to his new team the next day.
Parker told Chelios to call the Moose Jaw coach to see if any spot was open. It took some days, but eventually, Chelios called.
“What position do you play?” The coach, Larry Billows, asked.
“What are you looking for?” Chelios responded.
“I play ‘D.’ ”
Chelios wasn’t a D-man. He had been a forward, but he had nothing to lose. Chelios, however, couldn’t afford a plane ticket, so nothing happened until a few weeks later. The Moose Jaw Canucks struggled and eventually offered Chelios a plane ticket.
After a week, Chelios got to play his first game, and he scored in his first shift. After two great seasons with the Canucks, he was drafted by the Canadiens and went to the University of Wisconsin. He made his NHL debut in the 1983-84 season, and the rest is, as they say, history.
But if he hadn’t bumped into Bobby Parker that day in San Diego, who knows what would’ve happened to him?
“I had no business making the NHL, much less the Hall of Fame,” Chelios said. “I played because I wanted to play. I didn’t even know the route players took to get to the NHL. It never occurred to me that I was going to make the NHL.
“I’ve never, ever thought about my future. It’s like the Greek thing. You live day to day. You enjoy it and then worry about tomorrow tomorrow. That’s just the way it is. I’ve always been like that. There was no pressure to make it, because I never cared. I never cared about the NHL until I actually thought I’d made it.”
Source: Yahoo Sports.