Blackhawks Retire Chris Chelios' Jersey

The Detroit Red Wings’ Chris Chelios Receives the Honor in Patrick Kane’s Homecoming to Chicago!

It is fitting that the first memorable contact between Patrick Kane and Chris Chelios exemplifies the careers of both players. On Sunday, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks will face off in a showdown of Original Six foes with a history spanning nearly a century.

The game will be centered around the two stars, who are both native Chicagoans and Motor City residents. After a 16-season run that includes three Stanley Cup titles, Kane will make his return to United Center for the first time since being moved in 2023.

The Blackhawks will retire Chelios’s No. 7 uniform, which he wore for nine seasons before the game begins. “I know him well, just from being in Chicago in the summers and USA Hockey connections,” Kane said.

Maybe I’m copying his path a little bit here with Chicago and Detroit. He’s a great guy. I always enjoy it when I get a chance to talk to him and spend some time with him. Deserving of getting that No. 7 retired.”

Chelios had been with the Wings for nine seasons when Kane made his debut with the Blackhawks in October 2007. (Due to the retirement of No. 7 in 1991 in Ted Lindsay’s honor, he sported No. 24 in Detroit.) Whatever your relationship with Chelios—as a player, opponent, or spectator—Kane’s recollection of facing him will ring true.

Blackhawks Retire Chris Chelios' Jersey

Both had the tenacity and determination that characterize successful and distinguished careers. “I think it was my first year, we had a power play,” stated Kane. Sitting there with a puck in the corner was kind of the norm.

It was entangled in the skates of an individual. I was making an effort to locate it. I glanced at the referee, who wasn’t making any calls, as he crosschecked me multiple times. He counterchecked me three or four times after I swung at him. I believe it was on the sixth crosscheck that they decided it. We were now down three.

It was funny talking to him about that situation, because at that time, I was 18 or 19 and he was a bit older. He might have been in his 40s. He might have been twice my age. But it was fun going up against him and being able to get a chance to play against him. He’s one of the best, if not the best, American-born players ever. Definitely looked up to him when I was younger.”

In fact, Chelios was more than twice as old as Kane when they met in Chicago; on April 2, 2008, Kane was 19 years old and Chelios was 46. Despite Chelios’s impact, the Blackhawks’ 6-2 triumph was ultimately won by Kane, who scored once and assisted on another.

At the 1999 trade deadline, the 37-year-old defenseman left the Blackhawks, who were trading away their studs, to join the Wings, who saw value in an elderly veteran and Stanley Cup winner. It ought to sound familiar if that description does. Before becoming a free agent last spring, Kane played in 19 games for the New York Rangers during the regular season and seven more games in the playoffs.

He did not immediately go from Chicago to Detroit. Kane turned 35 years old by the time he received the all-clear signal to play, which was about six months after his extensive hip surgery on June 1, 2023. Once again, the Wings recognized the worth of a seasoned veteran and Stanley Cup winner.

Kane made his debut on December 7 after signing a one-year, $2.75 million deal on November 28. He has 26 points in 26 games, including a goal in his second game. “Of all the things that have impressed me with Patty, how he stepped in seamlessly was probably the most,” coach Derek Lalonde said.

“He’s a huge addition. He exceeded expectations on how NHL ready he would be, but the person he’s been in the room is something I didn’t expect. I probably should, with all the winning he’s done and all the success he’s had. And I like his team game. We don’t need Patrick to finish off his career with a Selke, but we do need him to play within our structure and he does it through intelligence. He’s been a big part of our recent success and hopefully a big part of our continued growth down the stretch.”

In his signing speech, Kane stated, “Detroit was in my heart” as he considered potential destinations to restart a career that would eventually lead him to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the same institution that enshrined Chelios in 2013. Kane sought counsel from Chelios, a rival of his in the past.

“He had nothing but positive things to say,” Kane said. “He said I would love it here as well. I know he was in a similar situation with being in Chicago for a long time and then coming to the Red Wings, so I definitely picked his brain about things.”

It was the night the Wings played the Blackhawks at Little Caesars Arena that Kane made his professional hockey debut, in one of those strange coincidences. As soon as he got out of his cab on Woodward Avenue, he ran headfirst into a throng of Blackhawks supporters, who, unsurprisingly, knew him.

His 2007 first-overall selection pick team has an opportunity to honor a player who helped them win the Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015 on Sunday. Twenty or twenty-five people, according to Kane’s estimation, will be attending the game.

It’ll be fun to spend time with my family and enjoy it with them, and hopefully settle in pretty quickly and just play well,” Kane said. “It’s a little bit different now with the organization – different coach and different GM, president, owner, all that stuff since I started there. Feels a little different but I still enjoy it with the fans and I just want to enjoy the moment.”

Chelios remained with the Wings for ten years, during which he was instrumental in their 2002 and 2008 Cup victories. Kane hasn’t decided yet if he’ll be staying beyond the current season, but extending him would be a smart move for the Wings. As good a match as Chelios’ arrival, for both parties involved.

“I feel like it’s still so new and fresh being here,” Kane said. “I’m focused on this year and we’ll see what happens. I will say I’ve enjoyed my time here with the group and the team and the organization in general. It’s been a real positive for me.”

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