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Chicago Blackhawks raise Chris Chelios' No. 7 to the rafters: 'I'm so grateful'

Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

CHICAGO — Chris Chelios took center stage at the United Center ice Sunday to speak before his banner was raised to the rafters, officially retiring his No. 7 jersey. The South Side native turned the affair into a Chicago homecoming rally.

“Where I came from it’s so hard to believe that this is actually happening today. I’m so grateful,” the Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman said before the start of the Hawks game against the Detroit Red Wings, featuring Patrick Kane’s return to the United Center.

Chelios, who won two championships in the Motor City after the Hawks traded him, started the ceremony with a ride onto the ice in a black classic car along with his mother, Sue.

“Hopefully by the time I’m done speaking, you’re going to understand how much I love the city of Chicago, the Chicago Blackhawks, my teammates, your fans, my friends, and most of all my family,” said Chelios, who spent nine years of the 1990s in a Hawks uniform.

Chelios put on his fan hat and ticked off the championships he watched his hometown teams collect: the 1985 Bears, “my 2005 White Sox,” the 2016 Cubs and the ’90s Bulls — one of whom, Dennis Rodman, was in attendance.

And, of course, the Hawks, three-time Stanley Cup winners in the 2010s.

 

But a personal connection brought it all home — literally.

“The most unique thing here for me thinking about this (honor) is when I first found out that I was going to get my jersey retired, that I’m only one of two Chicago-born athletes to have their jersey retired in our hometown. And it just so happened that he was one of my childhood heroes, Dick Butkus,” Chelios said.

“He was the epitome of the South Side Chicago: big, mean, tough. And they say be careful when you meet your heroes, sometimes they disappoint. He didn’t disappoint.”

Chelios credited supporters from his past like trainer T.R. Goodman and former Moose Jaw teammate Bobby Parker, and he thanked old Hawks teammates such as Gary Suter and Jeremy Roenick, as well as next-generation player Brent Seabrook, whom he granted permission to wear his No. 7 and may one day join him in the rafters.

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