Chris Chelios enjoyed a long successful career in the National Hockey League, but not many people know that Saskatchewan played a major role in the early days of his career.
Chelios played two seasons for the Moose Jaw Canucks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) from 1979-1981 followed by two seasons with the University of Wisconsin, before breaking into the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens. During his time with Moose Jaw, Chelios posted 35 goals and 95 assists in 107 games.
Chelios will be in Prince Albert on Saturday to serve as the guest speaker at the 2024 Kinsmen Sportsman Dinner hosted in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre.
Although the Raiders weren’t his favorite opponent to play against, Chelios says he is excited to return to Hockeytown North.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been back to Saskatchewan a few times now over the last couple of years and basically that’s where it all started for me. In Moose Jaw, not the fondest memories in Prince Albert playing the Raiders. We lost both years in game seven and I think they went on to win the Centennial Cup.”
“It was just a great place to play, great atmosphere. I do have some friends throughout the years in the NHL that I’ve played with Dave Manson, guys that I know are from that area. Nothing but great memories from of my days in Saskatchewan.”
Chelios was selected in the second round, 40th overall, by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. Chelios played 1651 career NHL games, posting 185 goals and 763 assists from the blue line.
Chelios won a trio of Stanley Cups in his career with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings and broke the record for most playoff games on April 12, 2008, passing Patrick Roy’s record.
The funds raised at the Kinsmen Sportsman Dinner will go towards the Grand Slam Rebuild Project which is organized by the Prince Albert Minor Baseball Association with the aim of the project to rebuild the complex of three diamonds at Crescent Acres.
Chelios says one of the main reasons he is making the trip to Prince Albert is to give back to a community that he played in at the start of his career.
“In the hockey world, it’s nice to come back and see people, how much they appreciate you and the support they give you. The money goes to great events. I’ve dealt with youth hockey, raising money for youth hockey or some other worthy cause, whether maybe a children’s foundation for make-a-wish. When you’re in a position to give back a little bit, you feel obligated.
“I don’t think I’d go to Ontario or anywhere like that, but because I have some ties in Saskatchewan and PA, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people that (I) have run across over the years. I enjoy that. I really enjoyed my experiences in Canada when I was playing in Montreal and Moose Jaw.” At the banquet, Bruce Vance will be honored with the Sportsman of the Year. Gage Grassick will receive the Female Athlete of the Year award with Tazmin Smith-Windsor earning the Male Athlete of the Year.