Originally written December 13, 2011 on Fox Sports Detroit:
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Chris Chelios is officially a Hall of Famer. On Monday night in Chicago, Chelios was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame along with Keith Tkachuk, Gary Suter, Mike Emrick and Ed Snider. "The fact that it's in Chicago, just (Sunday) night I'd seen people I hadn't seen for 35 years growing up in the neighborhood in Chicago, Evergreen Park," Chelios said during his induction speech. "For me, it means the world to me." Chelios' many accomplishments include an NCAA championship at the University of Wisconsin in 1983, Rookie of the Year honors in 1985, a gold medal with Team USA at the 1996 World Cup, four Olympic appearances for Team USA, three Norris Trophies and three Stanley Cup championships. Chelios is one of two Americans to play in four Olympic Games, starting in 1984 and ending in 2002. "When I think about USA Hockey and representing the team, the NHL, there's 700 guys," Chelios said. "To make an Olympic team, there's 23 guys every four years. To get chosen on that team, that's something special and I never took it for granted. Playing in the NHL, it's an honor but the Olympics, you've got to be really lucky to make that team." Chelios made sure to acknowledge the 1980 Olympic team, the one that helped set the stage for hockey in the United States and pave the way for Chelios and his generation of players. It wasn't always easy playing hockey at the international level back in those early days. Chelios said his first time playing for the United States was on the junior national team. "Unfortunately, the outcome wasn't what you wanted," Chelios said. "If I remember correctly, I think we were (being) beaten 8-0 in the first period, we got booed out of the Met Center after the first period. Unfortunately we had to go out and finish the game for the next two periods. It ended 8-0, the Russians quit shooting. So did we. But anyway, not a great experience at all." But things eventually got better for the Americans. "We talk about the '96 Cup, obviously you want to win," Chelios said. "We struggled, just like the little brother to Canada. I'm sure Gary, Walt and the rest of the guys will tell you, we were getting sick of watching them carry the trophy around. The other countries as well, so it was a big leap for us, our group of guys. We got that swagger that you need to win. It led to better things." Chelios mentioned the developmental program in Ann Arbor and how it's helping those young players reach the levels that he did. He didn't have time to talk about all four of his Olympic Games, but Chelios did have great memories of 2002. "I think the Salt Lake experience, being on home ice, you want to win the gold medal," Chelios said. "But there were no disappointments. For my family, my friends, definitely for my career in USA Hockey, that was the highlight. "Winning a silver medal, not too many people can say that. I've got that medal. That medal's been as many places as the Cup. I feel very fortunate that I was able to share that with those guys and represent the country like we did. The best hockey I've ever been involved with at that skill level. It always works out better when you win. "There was a lot of pressure in Salt Lake. I don't know if Gary remembers, but I grabbed him, we were both nervous wrecks, I looked at him and said, 'Hey, we gotta relax. We're going to win either way in this gold medal game. We're walking home with something.' It didn't help. We still kind of got too nervous." Chelios also talked about his 26-year NHL career with Montreal, where he won his first Stanley Cup, with his hometown Chicago Blackhawks and finally, with the Detroit Red Wings. "What Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and their families meant to me and my family, from getting them into the hardest schools to get into in Michigan, my sons Jake and Dean also played for Little Caesars," Chelios said. "We know what the Ilitch family has meant to youth hockey over the past 30 or 40 years, maybe longer, I'm not sure. But thank you, Mr. and Mrs. I. I appreciate everything you've done for us." With the induction, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame showed Chelios how much it appreciates everything that Chelios has done for hockey in the United States. Although Chelios is no longer playing, he remains in the Red Wings organization as an assistant in the front office. "I'll always be around the game. I love it," Chelios said.
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