Chelios enjoying his time with AHL's Wolves

December, 11, 2009

When Chris Chelios turns 48 next month, it might just happen during one of those AHL bus trips.

If that's an image that makes you feel bad for the future Hockey Hall of Famer, don't. Chelios is absolutely having a blast.

"I'm really enjoying myself," Chelios told on Thursday.

And it shows on the stats sheet, where the blueliner had 10 points (2-8) and was a plus-9 over 17 games with the Chicago Wolves entering weekend play, getting the kind of ice time he hasn't received in years.

Well worth the bus trips.

"Actually, the travel hasn't been bad at all," Chelios said. "I'm facing my first six-hour bus ride this weekend. It's been good."

I was genuinely surprised by his upbeat mood over the phone. I mean, I figured since we're in December and he still hasn't signed an NHL gig, Chelios might be sour on life. Quite the opposite.

"I'm happy with the way things are going for myself," Chelios said. "It would be tough to leave here as the season goes on, just to be a seventh defenseman for some NHL team in the playoffs."

Yes, you heard right. The greatest American player to ever don the blades will not jump at any NHL offer. It will depend. Or so he says.

"No, it wouldn't make sense to be honest with you," said Chelios. "It would have to be the right situation. I guess unless Detroit came to me if they sustained more significant injuries. I'd have to think about it. But I'm enjoying myself here. As bad as I want to play in the NHL, I want to play. That's the main thing."

He's had NHL nibbles. The Phoenix Coyotes took a look at him last month when they were beset by injuries, but Chelios decided not to go that route. And there was another NHL team with serious interest.

"I had one pretty good [NHL] offer and decided not to take it," said Chelios. "They had some minor injuries but ... I don't know. I might change my mind later this year if an NHL team was making a legitimate run at it and wanted help. But right now, I'm really enjoying myself here and I'd rather play 20 minutes here than go to the NHL and just be a safety valve or insurance for a team. It wouldn't be fair to the Wolves, either, leaving at the trade deadline or something like that."

His 25-game contract with the Wolves is nearing its end. Chelios wasn't totally sure what the rules were on renewing it, but knew he wanted to keep on going.

"Unlimited," AHL president Dave Andrews told via e-mail. "The tryout agreements obviously provide the player an opportunity to sign elsewhere after 25 games, but he can re-sign in Chicago if the offer is made."

Why quit now? He's not even the oldest pro in the game anymore. Not with 51-year-old Slava Fetisov coming back to play a KHL game Friday.

"I heard that. Good for him," Chelios said with a laugh. "He's making me look good."

Chelios actually had interest from KHL teams last summer, but decided to stay closer to home. He has one son at Michigan State and the other living with him in Chicago. It's been ideal from that point of view.

"If this is the way it's going to end, it's a pretty good way for it to end," said Chelios. "Because I'm enjoying getting to see my kids and I'm getting to play and enjoying my time with the Wolves."

It's not always about the money.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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