When Michael Jordan defended Chris Chelios from tens of thousands of angry Blackhawk fans

Chris Chelios became a cult player with the Chicago Blackhawks, spending nine seasons with the organization, being the captain for four of them.

But March 23rd 1999, everything changed. Chelios was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Anders Eriksson and two 1st round picks.

The Detroit fans sure were excited, since they just added another star to their roster. But in Chicago it was a different story, and Chelios got to experience it just months later.

On the last night of the regular season, Chelios returned to the United Center in Chicago for the first time, but this time wearing a Red Wings jersey.

It wasn’t a warm welcome.

“The fans booed me every time I touched the puck,” Chelios writes in the book Chris Chelios: Made in America. “I know I should have expected that reaction, but to be honest it was unnerving. That was when I realized the depth of anger the Chicago fans had worked up for me. They saw me as a traitor.”

Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman decided to let Chelios sit out the two remaining periods. Actually, he told Chelios to leave the bench and go upstairs to hang out with his friend that was coming to see him. That person was basketball legend Michael Jordan.

“I dressed and watched the third period with Jordan in a suite. My old team wound up beating my new team 3-2.”

If Michael Jordan was a legend in basketball and in the world of sports, it was nothing compared to what he was for the people of Chicago.

“Jordan had my back, telling everyone ‘I’m not here for the Blackhawks, I’m here for Chris Chelios. I don’t like how they treated him’,” Chelios recalls. “That was nice of MJ to say, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have any ill will toward the Blackhawks.”

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