Chris Chelios was a unique player, and we will probably never see someone have a career like him again. When he was 47, he’d won the Stanley Cup three times. He was also a three-time Norris Trophy winner and an NHL All-star five times.
If he just retired, he was sure to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Chelios had played more than 1,600 NHL games in 25 seasons. But he wasn’t finished.
His contract had expired, and it didn’t look like any NHL team needed his services. Most would have just quit. Heck, most would’ve just quit years ago. But Chelios, at 47, signed a contract with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
That season, back in 2009-10, Chelios played 46 games with the Wolves. He also got the opportunity to play seven games with the Atlanta Thrashers in the NHL. But after that, he went straight back to the Wolves and played 14 games in the AHL playoffs.
He still got it, and he still loved the game. Chelios was just like anyone else in the locker room. He didn’t care that he played 25 seasons in the NHL. He just loved to play hockey.
“When he got on the ice, it was like he was trying to crack an NHL roster for the first time in his life,” then-Wolves goalie Peter Mannino told The Athletic. “He never gave up a rep or anything on the ice. Every rush he tried to finish, everything down low. His stick, he would throw around hard on our guys in practice just like he would in games.”
And to prove that Chelios wasn’t your ordinary NHL player finishing his career in the AHL…
Brian Sipotz was a defenseman in the Chicago Wolves that year. Years later, he was in Detroit and stopped by Chris Chelios’ restaurant to see if he was around. Chelios was with Darren McCarty at the time and recognized Sipotz right away. He bought him a beer, and Sipotz couldn’t believe it.
“There was no reason he should remember me,” Sipotz said. “I try to put myself in that situation. If I played my last year in the (ECHL) or whatever, I don’t know that I would have a lot of memories about it. For him to come down to the American League for a year, he didn’t need to make an effort to know the guys, but he did. For somebody who could have just big-wheeled his way through, he definitely didn’t.”