Patrick Kane, former Blackhawks legends talk Chris Chelios' jersey retirement

It's a big day for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Madhouse on Madison welcomed a star-studded attendee list, who all arrived in order to pay homage to Blackhawks legend Chris Chelios.

Chelios had his jersey retired Sunday before the Blackhawks played Detroit. The outpouring of respect was rare, and it was felt before his jersey ascended into the rafters.

It started Sunday morning, as former Blackhawks legend Patrick Kane spoke on Chelios. Former Blackhawks teammates of Chelios Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte and Gary Suter spoke about their former teammate on a panel hosted by Pat Foley.

Belfour, Amonte and Suter also spoke on Chelios' presence as a teammate. The words "captian," "warrior," "intensity," "heart" and "friend" came to the forefront.

"He's the ultimate competitor, the ultimate leader and the ultimate friend," Roenick said during the panel.

Chelios career has been dubbed as the "godfather of American hockey" and Foley rubbed him as the greatest American-born player in the history of the sport.

Even the Great One, who was in attendance Sunday, had words for how special Chelios was as a player.

"I admit, you were one of the few players that made me nervous," Wayne Gretzky said in a pre-game video.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 12: Chris Chelios #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates on the ice during an NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 12, 1994 at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

As a defenseman, Chelios earned every word of the praise he received Sunday.

He played 26 seasons, and is the all-time leader in games played by a defenseman in NHL history with 1,651 career games. That career began in 1984 and ended in 2010.

He finished his hockey career with a NCAA Division I championship, three James Norris trophies, three Stanley Cups, a World Cup of Hockey title and an Olympic silver medal at the 2002 Games. 

Those two decades also mean Chelios' NHL career spans multiple generations of hockey. That touched on the beginning of the best era of hockey Chicago has seen.

Kane, a current Detroit Red Wing, saw this first hand in 2008. Chelios crosschecked him during a game.

"Afterward, he said he wanted to give us a 5-on-3 so we could make the playoffs that year," Kane told reporters Sunday morning. "Of course, my mom’s like mad about it after, saying, ‘He’s the same age as me. What’s he doing picking on you?’"

That relationship began then, and paid off later.

This summer, Kane was in the middle of his own free agency decisions. Chelios, who made similar decisions after his Blackhawks tenure, became a resource for Kane.

"He's been a great friend to me, and even when I was kind of going through the whole process this summer, just kind of like checking in with him and talking to him a little bit about certain situations was very beneficial for me," Kane said. "For me, it's like another friend is getting a great honor tonight."

Sunday's ceremony was well deserved for one of the best players in Hawks' history. He's the ninth player to ever have his jersey retired by the franchise.

But the outpouring means more. It means Chelios is one of the best players in the history of the game.

"You add that on top of how much he's meant to the Blackhawks and USA hockey," Kane said. "Just the legend that he is and how long he played."


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