WOODRIDGE, Ill. – Chris Chelios still wants to play hockey for some team, somewhere next season.
The 46-year-old defenceman, cut loose after the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings, said he is waiting for offers and would even consider going to the minors or to Russia to play, although his preference would be to get back to the NHL.
He said some clubs at home and abroad have sounded him out, but no deal has yet been made.
“I’ve let everyone know that I have every intention to play,” Chelios said Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic hockey team orientation camp, where he is acting as a special assistant to the coaching staff. “It’s tough at my age to get the opportunity.
“In Detroit it was just a numbers game. We had the best team in the league, but at some point you’ve got to bring the young guys in. I totally understand it, but I think there’s a lot of teams I can help.”
He has worked out as he does every summer to prepare to play the following season and wants to be playing for a team when the season begins in October. It could be an AHL club like his hometown Chicago Wolves, or in pe.
“I haven’t ruled out anything,” he said. “There’s the Russian league, but the biggest thing is being away from family. I love the game and I want to play, but I love my kids more, so we’ll see what happens.”
At camp, it is sometimes hard to tell if he’s a coach or a player. Dressing in a sweatsuit different from the coaches was intentional.
“I still consider myself a player,” he said. “It’s awkward. It really is, but it’s a learning experience. But I do intend on staying in hockey and this is one step toward my post-career.”
Among those he skates with is 20-year-old Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It’s embarrassing – my son played against him growing up. They’re both born in 1989, so it’s pretty strange playing against a kid who played against my kid.”
Chelios first played in the Winter Olympics in 1984 in Sarajevo. He won’t play in Vancouver in February, but if he’s not playing for a team, he will stay involved in the U.S. squad.
MARTIN INJURED – In camp but not skating is New Jersey defenceman Paul Martin. Coach Ron Wilson said he tweaked a hamstring while running during his summer training.
“He could go on the ice, but we didn’t come here to hurt anybody, so he’s doing a lot of off-ice stuff and paying attention to any meetings or other things we have scheduled,” said Wilson.
Chelios has filled in for Martin during some drills.
ARMY HELP – Part of the U.S. team-building strategy was to bring in members of the forces fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq to speak to the players on Monday night, included some decorated for bravery. Veteran defenceman Brian Rafalski said it was “a highlight experience to meet men of that character.
“The guys were riveted. They didn’t move for the hour and a half that those guys talked.”
He said that was unusual for hockey players, especially since “it wasn’t our first meeting of the day.”