DETROIT – Players have their reasons for moving from team-to-team in the NHL throughout their careers.
For two of them, coming to Detroit at that point in their careers was all for one reason, it was a great fit.
Those two, Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan, are now heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame, together.
“It was a great fit at that point in my career,” Chelios said during a conference call Tuesday after the announcement. “We had a lot of veterans. Scotty Bowman was coaching the team and he took a liking to me real quick, fortunately for myself.”
“At that point in my career, I was going into my 10th year,” said Shanahan, whose first season in Detroit was his 10th in the league. “Like Chris said, it was just the right fit. They had not won a Cup in several decades. They had been close and at the time, that’s all I wanted to do. You mature a little bit as a player, you want to get yourself established and feel like you belong then you start realizing how difficult it is and how hard it is. I was lucky at that point in my career to join a team that was obsessed with it. And we had a group of guys that were also obsessed with it and also talented enough to be a legitimate contender.”
Chelios spent 10 of his 26 NHL seasons in Detroit, helping the Wings win two Stanley Cups (2002 and 2008).
Chelios, who won a Cup while playing for Montreal in 1986, spent nine seasons in Chicago.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d last as long as I did in Detroit,” Chelios said. “I was always planning to move back to Chicago and 11 years later my kids were all basically raised here and went to school here. At that point I didn’t really think about uprooting them and went into business. It’s been a pretty good run. As far as that business goes.
“I’m always going to say I’m from Chicago,” Chelios added. “I’m proud of that fact. I was raised in Chicago and that’s where I played all my youth hockey but Detroit’s been my home now for the last 13 years. I love it. The people have really been gracious to me and my family, from the Ilitch family. It’s a new home right now. It was a great fit when I first came here as far as fitting in with all the veterans, a world class team.”
Chelios finished his playing career at 48 years old.
“Getting into my 40s I always thought it would be something physical that would be the end of my career, not mental because I would have kept playing if I could have,” Chelios said. “If I could have been able to keep playing with Detroit I would have but being realistic you can’t keep passing the young guys and losing them. It happened with (Kyle) Quincey and a couple other guys. It was time.”
Chelios, a Norris Trophy winner, finished his career with the Atlanta Thrashers and Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
“What really made me realize I didn’t want to play anymore was when I went to Atlanta, playing about eight minutes and not very well, it wasn’t worth being away from my family. I always said I’d go right until the tank was empty and I believe I did.”
Chelios, who’s the only player to appear in at least 400 games with three teams, ranks fifth in all-time games played at 1,651 and first in career playoff games at 266.
He scored 185 goals to go with 763 assists over those 26 seasons, including 31 goals and 113 assists in the playoffs.
“Prior to the call I was getting calls from a lot of friends and that was kind of making me nervous,” said Chelios, who was packing to leave for the Wings’ developmental camp when he got the call. “What a big surprise even though you know it’s coming. Until it really happens the word is surreal. What a great day.”
Shanahan was in Detroit for nine of his 21 NHL seasons, hoisting the Cup three times (1997, 1998 and 2002).
“I don’t think I’d be on this (conference) call today if it weren’t for my time in Detroit,” said Shanahan, who’s the NHL’s vice president and director of player safety. “In fact I know I would not be on this call if it weren’t for my time in Detroit. That first year we won their first Stanley Cup in a long time. It’s such a special place. It just seemed to be a great fit at the time an then were lucky enough to win a few more Cups. I have to thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and Scotty Bowman and Kenny Holland and my teammates when I was there for allowing me to be a part of that.”
Shanahan, who ranks 13th all-time in goals with 656, scored at least 30 goals seven times in Detroit and reached the 40-goal mark three times.
“For me it was the first Stanley Cup in Detroit,” Shanahan said when asked what his most memorable moment was in his career. “Obviously every Stanley Cup is special for a different reason, but when you’re lucky enough to win your first one there are so many other emotions that go with it. Sitting around the dressing room, kidding around and joking around. For me, and Chris will remember these, the dinners. I was on a good dinner crew. We liked long dinners. If you like short dinners you didn’t want to go out with us. Just being out with the guys.”
Scott Niedermayer also was elected into the Hall of Fame, along with Geraldine Heaney and Fred Shero, who was elected in the Builder Category.