Christos Kostas Tselios, better known as Chris Chelios (born January 25, 1962) is a retired American professional ice hockey defenseman. He is currently the Executive Advisor to Ken Holland, the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, a role that Steve Yzerman held before leaving to become general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Chelios played for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Atlanta Thrashers. When he was called up from the AHL‘s Chicago Wolves to play for the Thrashers during the 2009–10 NHL season, Chelios was the oldest active player in the NHL – and the second oldest of all time – had played the most games of any active player in the NHL, was the last player from the 1981 NHL Entry Draft still active (or any draft from 1986 and earlier), and had the most career penalty minutes of any active player. Chelios currently holds the record for most games played in the NHL by a defenseman and is fifth overall with 1,651, and is tied with Gordie Howe for most NHL seasons played with 26. On November 24, 2006, he played in his 1,496th NHL game, the most of any American-born player, passing the record total of Phil Housley. In the 2008–09 season, he appeared in the playoffs for an NHL record 24th time, having missed the playoffs only twice (1997–98 and 2009–10) in his entire career. Chelios is of Greek heritage. His cousin, Nikos Tselios, has also played professional hockey and is a former first round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Chelios was raised in Evergreen Park, Illinois and was a standout youth hockey player. He briefly attended Mount Carmel High School, but moved to Southern California in 1977. Attending San Diego’s Mira Mesa High School until his graduation in 1979, Chelios has been honored in the Marauders’ Hall of Fame. Unable to play high school hockey in Southern California, Chelios wasn’t recruited by any U.S. colleges. His only scholarship offer came from local San Diego-based U.S. International University, the only NCAA Division I hockey team west of the Rockies. But when Chelios arrived on campus as a freshman in 1979 he soon realized he was in the wrong environment, facing bigger players with considerably more junior hockey experience. He was eventually cut from the team and considered quitting hockey. Instead, he tried his luck in Canada, where he was twice cut by Junior B teams in Canada and hit a low point when he had to borrow money from strangers to get home to California one year. Chelios said, “I wasn’t any bigger or any better than the other guys, so they weren’t going to take a kid from the States when they could have a local guy.”
He returned home and grew three inches while adding 40 pounds of muscle. He was then drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to that, he played for the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League where he tallied 87 points and 175 penalty minutes in just 54 games in his final season. Chelios enjoyed two strong years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison after being drafted. As one of the top collegiate players in the country, he was selected for the United States at the 1981–82 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship. In 1983, he was part of the Badgers’ NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship team and was named to the all-tournament team and the second WCHA all-star team.
Chelios was a member of the U.S. Olympic team for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. After that he made his debut for the Canadiens, playing 12 games in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs. That summer he joined the U.S. team at the 1984 Canada Cup. He wore number 24 in Montreal, Detroit and Atlanta but number 7 with the Chicago Blackhawks and Wolves.
In 1984, he made the Montreal Canadiens for good, and distinguished himself with his play. He earned a trip to the National Hockey League All-Star Game and was named to the 1985 NHL All-Rookie Team. He scored 64 points in 74 games, a high total for a defenseman, even in the higher-scoring 1980s. He came second to Mario Lemieux for the Calder Memorial Trophy. In the playoffs that year, he scored 10 points in 9 games, with a +17 plus/minus. Although he only played 41 games in the 1985-1986 season, he won his first Stanley Cup, playing in front of Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Roy. His tremendous play warranted him the nickname “Soft Hands Chelios.”
Following two more good seasons, Chelios really broke out in the 1988-1989 season. He scored 73 points in 80 games at +35, was named to the All-Star First-Team, and won the James Norris Memorial Trophy. During that year’s Wales Conference (now Eastern Conference) Finals series against the Philadelphia Flyers (which the Canadiens won in six games), Chelios became reviled by Flyer fans for a dirty hit on Brian Propp that left the Philadelphia winger with a serious concussion and forced him to miss the next game. For the remainder of the series, the Flyers did not retaliate against Chelios until finally, after the series fate was sealed late in Game 6, Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall memorably skated out of his net to attack Chelios.
After playing only 53 games in the next season (in which he served as co-captain, with Guy Carbonneau), on June 29, 1990, Chelios was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks with a 2nd-round draft pickfor Denis Savard, who is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In his first season with Chicago, he continued to score at his usual rate, tallying 64 points, and earned a spot on the Second NHL All-Star Team. Chelios would help lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992, before being swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was in top form for the 1992-1993 season, scoring 73 points and won another Norris Trophy. His Norris Trophy winning play, which some sports reporters referred to as “Sweet”, earned him the nickname “Honey Nut“. The nickname derives from his name being spelled and pronounced similarly to the famous breakfast cereal, Honey Nut Cheerios.
In 1995–96, Chelios would have another great season for the Blackhawks, scoring 73 points and winning his third Norris Trophy. When the Summer of 1996 rolled around, he would help lead the United States to its biggest international hockey win since the 1980 Winter Olympics, beating Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey final series and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Chelios wascaptain of the Blackhawks from 1995 to 1999.
Detroit Red Wings
At 37, Chelios could still help teams with his veteran leadership and his largely remaining talent. On March 23, 1999, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Anders Eriksson and two first-round draft picks.
The move to Detroit, where he had fewer responsibilities and more skilled teammates, helped keep Chelios playing at close to his peak level. In 2002, his +40 plus/minus led the league, and he was again named to the First All-Star Team. He also led the United States hockey team to a silver medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and was named to the Tournament’s All-Star Team. His season culminated in the Red Wings’ victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Finals, giving Chelios his second Stanley Cup.
In 2004, because of the cancellation of the NHL season, Chelios, along with fellow Red Wing teammates Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper, decided to play hockey for the Motor City Mechanics, a UHL team based out of Fraser, Michigan. He was heavily criticized for this decision as the UHL has a maximum salary in place, but at the same time he was strongly against a salary cap in the NHL. In October 2004 he trained with the U.S. bobsled federation in a bid to compete for the Greek bobsled team at the 2006 Winter Olympics. While Chelios didn’t compete in the bobsled, he did captain the USA hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
On August 4, 2005, the 43-year-old re-signed with the Red Wings for a one-year contract. On May 24, 2006, Chelios re-signed a one-year contract with theDetroit Red Wings. On July 3, 2006, Chelios became the active leader for most games played upon the retirement of teammate Steve Yzerman. On April 21, 2007, he became the oldest defenseman to score a short-handed goal in the NHL in a playoff game against the Calgary Flames.
Chelios was the captain of the US Olympic Hockey Team that played at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. By participating in ice hockey at the 2006 Winter Olympics, Chelios set a new standard, by becoming the first player to take part in an Olympic ice hockey tournament, twenty-two years after he played in his first. The old record was set by Swiss hockey player Bibi Torriani who had played twenty years after his debut (1928 and 1948).
Chelios re-signed with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2007–08 season. On January 8, 2008, Chelios became the second oldest player in the history of the NHL, at 45 years, 348 days, passing Moe Roberts. Only Gordie Howe, who played until age 52, was older. On April 12, 2008, Chelios played in his 248th playoff game, breaking the NHL record set by Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy. Later that season, Chelios also became the oldest active player to win the Stanley Cup.
Chelios signed another one-year contract with the Red Wings for the 2008–09 season. On December 5, 2008, Chelios played in his first of two games for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League (AHL) farm club for the Red Wings, as part of a conditioning stint. At 46 years of age, he became the oldest player in the 73-year history of the AHL. At the conclusion of the 2008–09 season, Chelios was a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Chicago Wolves and Atlanta Thrashers
After the Red Wings announced that they would not be re-signing Chelios, he signed a 25-game pro try-out contract with the Chicago Wolves. After a second 25-game pro tryout contract with the Wolves, Chelios then signed a two-way contract with the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta kept him with the Wolves until he was recalled to the Thrashers, hoping that he could provide a spark for the team’s playoff hopes. He played in seven games for the Thrashers, but failed to score any points. On April 6, 2010, the Thrashers lost a game against the Devils that they had to win, in order to reach the playoffs, which meant that the Thrashers missed the 2010 playoffs. On April 7, 2010, Chelios was sent back to the Wolves.
Retirement and transition to Wings front office
On August 31, 2010, Chelios officially retired. The same day, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland announced that Chelios would be hired to work in the Red Wings’ front office. He was named Adviser to Hockey Operations, with a role of working with Red Wings’ defense prospects in Grand Rapids.
Chelios grew up in Chicago, Illinois where his father, Constantine “Gus” Chelios owned a chain of Greek restaurants. The family moved to Poway, California, in 1977 when his father left his struggling business in Chicago to open a restaurant in the San Diego area. He was a Chicago Blackhawks fan during his childhood but was more focused on football, idolizing Bears linebacker Dick Butkus. Chelios attended Mira Mesa Senior High School in San Diego up until 1978.
Chelios has been married to his wife, Tracee, for twenty years. They met while students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. They have four children, Dean, 21, Jake, 19, Caley, 17, and Tara, 14. Dean Chelios, a forward, scored a pair of power play goals to help his high school team, Cranbrook-Kingswood, win the division 3 Michigan state high school hockey championship in 2006. Dean formerly played for the Chicago Steel of the USHL in Bensenville, Illinois and is currently a sophomore on the Michigan State University Spartan hockey team. Jake was drafted by the Chicago Steel, 49th overall, in May 2009, and has now joined his brother at Michigan State. Caley has committed to Northwestern University.
He was very active in charitable causes during his playing days in Chicago, founding Cheli’s Children.”
He is the older brother of former minor-leaguer Steve Chelios, cousin of former NHL player Nikos Tselios, whose father was one of Gus Chelios’ brothers. The family name was originally Tselios, but Gus Chelios changed his family’s spelling. His cousin, also named Chris Chelios (Little Chris), is a former minor league player and current coach of the Robert Morris College women’s hockey team in Chicago. He is also founder of the CCH Xtreme hockey school.
In his career, Chelios has befriended many non-hockey athletes and entertainers. In 2004, Chris and surfer Laird Hamilton trained with the U.S. bobsled team and hoped to form the first Greek bobsled team at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
On Scrubs, Dr. Perry Cox, played by Chelios’ friend John C. McGinley, often wears a Red Wings jersey with Chelios’ name and number. During the fourth season of the show, which was concurrent with the 2004–05 lockout, Cox was seen on at least one occasion wearing a number 24 Motor City Mechanics jersey. Chelios is also close friends with actors John Cusack and D. B. Sweeney, Pearl Jamfrontman Eddie Vedder, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, and musician Kid Rock. In fact Chelios was sitting courtside with Kid Rock during the brawl at Auburn Hills on November 19, 2004. Chelios and Sweeney are quite close, with the two having appeared together in The Cutting Edge (1992) and Two Tickets to Paradise (2007) in addition to Chelios being the godfather to Sweeney’s son, Cade.
Chelios and his family, along with Hamilton, can be seen Stand up paddle surfing. Chelios credits the activity with helping him maintain his long career. He is regular at Michigan State University hockey games, cheering on his sons Jake and Dean.
On December 28, 2009 in Westmont, Illinois, Chelios was arrested for driving under the influence. He was the only occupant of the vehicle that was stopped. The vehicle was towed and Chelios was taken to the Westmont station, where he was charged, processed and posted bond. In March 2010 a judge reviewed the video tape of the arrest. The case was dismissed for lack of probable cause to stop, and evidence the tape provided, that Chelios was not impaired.
Chelios maintains a home in Malibu, California, and is well known as a member of the group of celebrity home owners and friends called the Malibu Mob. Other members include John McGinley, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, actor Tony Danza, big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton, beach volleyball pro Gabrielle Reece, Justin Long, Ed O’Neill, Max Wright, Detroit area musician Kid Rock, and tennis greatJohn McEnroe.
Chelios has two restaurant/bars in Dearborn (opened in 2003) and Detroit (opened in 2006), Michigan (Cheli’s Chili Bar I and Cheli’s Chili Bar II). In 2008, he opened a third location in Clinton Township, Michigan. He previously owned a Cheli’s Chili Bar on West Madison in Chicago, near the United Center, but this closed after his move to the Red Wings.
On January 2, 2007, two employees of Cheli’s in Detroit were fatally stabbed. Megan Soroka, 49, was a manager at the restaurant and Mark Barnard, 52, was a chef. Police arrested Justin Blackshere, 17, who allegedly confessed to the crime. He was a busboy at the restaurant and was fired in November 2006. Blackshere’s pregnant girlfriend had also been fired from her job as a dishwasher. Blackshere was found guilty of murder in the first degree on August 22, 2007. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on September 7, 2007. Chelios took a leave of absence from the Detroit Red Wings to help the families of his murdered employees. He said, “I’ll come back when I feel ready and the families feel ready. I’m just going to try to get through this day by day with everybody.”On January 9, 2007, the Red Wings announced that Chelios would be playing that night.
- 1979–80: Leadership Award (SJHL)
- 1980–81: Leadership Award (SJHL)
- 1981–82: Rookie of the Year Award (WCHA)
- 1982–83: Second All-Star Team (WCHA)
- 1982–83: All-Tournament Team (NCAA)
- 1982–83: NCAA Championship (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
- 1983–84: Played in XIV Olympic Winter Games (United States)
- 1984–85: Played in 1984 Canada Cup (United States)
- 1984–85: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1984–85: All-Rookie Team (NHL)
- 1985–86: Stanley Cup — Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
- 1986–87: Played in Rendez-vous ’87 (NHL)
- 1987–88: Played in 1987 Canada Cup (United States)
- 1988–89: First All-Star Team (NHL)
- 1988–89: James Norris Memorial Trophy — Defenseman of the Year (NHL)
- 1989–90: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1990–91: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1990–91: Second All-Star Team (NHL)
- 1991–92: Played in 1991 Canada Cup (United States)
- 1991–92: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1992–93: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1992–93: First All-Star Team (NHL)
- 1992–93: James Norris Memorial Trophy — Defenseman of the Year (NHL)
- 1993–94: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1994–95: First All-Star Team (NHL)
- 1995–96: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1995–96: First All-Star Team (NHL)
- 1995–96: James Norris Memorial Trophy — Defenseman of the Year (NHL)
- 1996–97: All-Star Team (1996 World Cup of Hockey)
- 1996–97: 1996 World Cup of Hockey Championship (United States)
- 1996–97: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1996–97: Second All-Star Team (NHL)
- 1997–98: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 1997–98: Captain (XVIII Olympic Winter Games) United States
- 1999–2000: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 2001–02: All-Star Team (XIX Olympic Winter Games)
- 2001–02: Silver medal (XIX Olympic Winter Games) United States
- 2001–02: Played in All-Star Game (NHL)
- 2001–02: First All-Star Team (NHL)
- 2001–02: Bud Light Plus/Minus Award (NHL)
- 2001–02: Stanley Cup Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
- 2005–06: Captain (XX Olympic Winter Games) United States
- 2006–07: Mark Messier Leadership Award (NHL)
- 2007–08: Stanley Cup — Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
- 2011: Inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame