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Chelios, Chris ("Chel")

CHELIOS, Chris ("Chel")

(b. 25 January 1962 in Chicago, Illinois), National Hockey League All-Star defenseman and three-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy.

Chelios grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, Illinois. In 1975 he began attending Mount Carmel High School, where he played varsity ice hockey in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Mount Carmel was a member of the Chicago Catholic League (the oldest high school hockey league in Illinois), which competed each year for the Kennedy Cup. After winning the 1976–1977 regular-season championship, Mount Carmel squared off against the Brother Rice team in a best-of-three playoff for the Kennedy Cup. With the series tied at one game apiece and the rubber game also knotted at one, Chelios—all 110 pounds of him—scored the cup-winning goal with only ten seconds left in the game. It was the school's first of six consecutive Kennedy Cups, making Chelios's clutch tally one of the biggest goals in Mount Carmel hockey history.

After that magical sophomore season Chelios's family moved to San Diego. Because southern California at the time had little to offer in the way of competitive amateur hockey, Chelios left for Moose Jaw, Canada, and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). His superb play in the SJHL was enough to induce the Montreal Canadiens, known as the Habs, to take a chance on the under-age junior as their fifth choice in the second round, fortieth overall, in the National Hockey League's 1981 entry draft.

Chelios then moved to the University of Wisconsin–Madison to play under the guidance of Bob Johnson. He was with the Badgers for two seasons, from 1981 to 1983. In 1983 Chelios produced an average of one point per game while playing steady defense to help lead the Badgers to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship. He was chosen for the NCAA All-Tournament Team and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Second All-Star Team. It was a busy year for Chelios, who also played on both the U.S. national and 1984 Olympic teams as well as appearing in twelve games for the Canadiens. He appeared uncertain and unsteady at first in the NHL, but the best was yet to come.

In the 1984–1985 season Chelios became a regular part of the Habs blue-line corps. A year later his name was inscribed on the Stanley Cup. As a valuable addition to a team led by the poised veterans Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson, Chelios pitched in with two goals and nine assists during Montreal's magical 1985–1986 playoff run. In 1988–1989 Chelios's excellent play in the Montreal end and the highest point production of his career earned him the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league's most outstanding defenseman.

In late June 1990 a trade sent Chelios back to his home-town when the Habs dealt him and a 1991 second-round draft choice to Chicago for Denis Savard. As soon as he arrived back in his hometown, Chelios became one of the most popular Blackhawks. He bought a restaurant—Cheli's Chili Bar—near the United Center where fans could congregate before and after games.

In his second season with the Blackhawks, Chelios anchored the defense in front of the standout goalie Ed Belfour while Jeremy Roenick lit the lamp with goals early and often. This combination led the Blackhawks to an eleven-game winning streak during the first three rounds of the playoffs. The streak, however, was derailed by the surging Pittsburgh Penguins, who swept the Hawks four straight in the finals. While with the Blackhawks, Chelios won two more Norris trophies (1993 and 1996) and played in six All-Star games.

A glorious highlight in Chelios's career came in September 1996, when he was a key part of the Team USA squad that defeated Team Canada in two straight games to win its first World Cup. Chelios was the captain of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan. In 1999 he was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings for Anders Eriksson and draft choices. He also was named the captain of the U.S. team for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For further information on Chelios, see James Duplacey, Joseph Romain, Stan Fischler, Morgan Hughes, and Shirley Fischler, Twentieth-Century Hockey Chronicle (1999); Dan Diamond, Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League, 2d ed. (2000); Stan Fischler, The Ultimate Bad Boys: Hockey's Greatest Fighters (1998); and Bruce Dowbiggin, Of Ice and Men: Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Glen Sather, Dominik Hasek: The Craft of Hockey (1998).

Stan Fischler

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