credit to thehockeynews.com
cont....The Hockey News caught up with Chris Chelios in early February and the Chicago native remains as candid, honest and passionate about the game and his career as ever. Here is the uncut interview.
THN: You told The Hockey News earlier this season you intend to play in the NHL until you are 50. Do you still feel that way?
Chelios: Yes, definitely. Physically I feel like I can do it. But realistically I know one injury could change everything. The fact that I have trained this hard and have figured out new ways to stay in shape, hopefully I can keep playing as long as I want. Since my minutes have gone up because of injuries to (Niklas) Kronwall and Fish (Jiri Fischer), it has made a huge difference to my game. The more I play, the better I play and the more I can help the team. This year was a real adjustment for me, playing 12-14 minutes a game at the start and mostly penalty killing. Now I know how role players feel, guys like (Kirk) Maltby and (Kris) Draper, who come off the bench after sitting for six or seven minutes.
THN: Was it frustrating to play so few minutes?
Chelios: Oh yeah. I wouldn't have minded so much if I wasn't playing well, but I also understand at my age, they have to get some of the younger guys some experience. I knew my role coming in and as hard as it was to make the adjustment, I accepted it. The toughest part was, if the team is losing, you can't do anything to help it win.
THN: To play to age 44, there must be lots of sacrifices that you make. What are some that you have made to remain a vital NHLer?
Chelios: The thing I have said since I started having kids is the time away from my family. There's nothing else as far as sacrifices. I don't care about the hours I work out; the time you have to put into that waking up at six in the morning. To me that's easy, just like going to work. But missing my sons' hockey games and my daughter's soccer games has been the hardest thing for me.
THN: Are the kids understanding?
Chelios: Yes. At this point they are very appreciative when I do make it to their games. They know how much work goes into me playing in the NHL and the travel that is involved. I have asked the kids if they'd like to have me around more, but they tell me to keep playing. They all do well in school and they are happy, healthy kids. I have been very fortunate that my wife carries the load. I wouldn't say she's like a single mother, but she does a lot of work on her own.
THN: Conditioning is a big reason why you have remained an effective player to this point. Have your workout routines changed as you have gotten older?
Chelios: There are things I just can't do anymore because of the problems I'm having with my knees. It's a quickness thing. I think I'm stronger now than I ever was; I just know that I'm not as quick so you have to change your game a little bit. I'm not an offensive defenseman anymore so it makes it a little easier that I'm on a team that is so good. There's no burden on me, like there was in Chicago, to play both ends and try to carry the load. I can honestly say with the skill we have had in Detroit the past six years, it has made it easier for me to play and stay in the league.
THN: How do you train during the off-season?
Chelios: I have a trainer, T.R. Goodman who was one of the first guys to start circuit training with mostly exercises that were geared toward hockey. I go to California and he puts me through two and a half months of different stages and a lot of it is designed to prevent injury. People might think they are doing the same thing, but T.R. brings it to a new level. He has started training a lot of players, which didn't sit too well with me. He has to make a living to, but there are guys that he works with that I don't particularly care for. There are guys that I really dislike that he took in. That's just the way I am and I'll always be like that. I decided to find different ways to train because guys I play against are 10 and 15 years younger than me and I didn't have that edge or advantage that I had with T.R. because they are all doing it.
THN: Two and a half months every summer is a huge commitment on your part.
Chelios: It would be great if I could stick around Detroit, but there are just too many distractions. I couldn't do my routine of getting up at six in the morning and going to the gym so I can be done by 9 or 10 a.m. so I can spend the whole day with my family. Hopefully that's where I make it up to my wife and kids, spending every day with them in the summertime.
THN: Do you remember your first NHL game?
Chelios: It was against Hartford and I was on the ice for 12 seconds on my first shift and got scored against. We were shorthanded and they put me out to PK. When I got back to the bench I remember Larry Robinson and Craig Ludwig laughing at me.
THN: Who were some of the other veterans on that Canadiens' team?
Chelios: We had Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, Bob Gainey, Chris Nilan, Pierre Mondou, Guy Carbonneau. I played with Lafleur in 1983-84 and he retired the next season. We got to the semifinal and took it to five games that season so that's when I really got to meet the guys and get to know them.
THN: Was it nerve-racking to walk into a situation with so many veterans?
Chelios: To be honest, the fact that I grew up in Chicago and never really got to watch a lot of NHL games, except for Hockey Night In Canada when I played in Moose Jaw (for two years), I wasn't really aware of the aura or what I had gotten myself into. I had heard of those guys, but I'd be lying if I said I got to see them play. Growing up in Chicago you couldn't watch hockey on TV. Obviously you still can't now.
THN: How long did it take until you started to feel like a true NHL player?
Chelios: My first 12 games I didn't play a regular shift and I really didn't play with any confidence. I scored my first goal in the first game of the playoffs against Boston and all of a sudden I thought I was Bobby Orr. I got my confidence. If you had seen me play two weeks before that, you never would have guessed I was capable of playing the way I did in the playoffs. After the first round of the playoffs, I thought, 'Man, this is going to be great.'
THN: What were your expectations back then as far as how you saw your career unfolding?
Chelios: There were no expectations. I didn't know if I would play hockey in the NHL or in a senior league. I just knew I wanted to play hockey. Once I turned pro, I had no idea how I was going to do. I never really worried or thought about too many things; I just played.
THN: What is it like the first time you are traded?
Chelios: Being traded by Montreal was a big shock. I understand why they traded me; I think after they traded me everybody who was captain got traded, whether it was Mike Keane, Vinny Damphousse or whoever. You know what it's like, when things don't go well, someone is going to take the fall when you lose out early in the playoffs. I believe in my own heart I was a little immature at the time and I wasn't ready to be captain of a team like that. It was a big responsibility and I don't think I handled it very well. I wish they had been a little more patient with me, but everything happens for a reason. I got married a year later, started a family and really settled down. It was a stage in my life where Montreal and I was a single young guy. You're living a dream.