Chris Chelios was stunned by trade

Chris Chelios hoped to remain in a Chicago uniform as the Blackhawks rebuilt in the late 1990s. Ian Tomlinson/Getty Images

On January 17, the New York Post published a report that said (former Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill) Wirtz and I had an agreement that I would be traded if the team wasn't in contention later in the season.

"I swear on my kids' heads that that's not true at all," I told the Chicago media. "I have no interest in being traded anywhere." That was the truth. At that point, I could not imagine playing anywhere except Chicago.

"As bad as things are right now, I want to be here when this thing turns around and to lead the charge," I added. "I want to stay in Chicago. I don't know how I can put it simpler. Things are going bad here, but I'm not the type of player who is going to quit or ask to be traded. My heart is in Chicago and it's always going to be in Chicago."

What the media didn't know -- and something that I didn't tell them -- was that I had a handshake no-trade agreement with Mr. Wirtz. He told me he would not trade me during the duration of the contract.

My situation changed in February when (then-general manager Bob) Murray told the Chicago Tribune that my existing contract was negotiated under the belief that it would be "my last contract with the Hawks." Seeing that in print stunned both me and my agents.

Although Murray hedged and said he might reconsider if I played well in 2000, he made it sound as if that was a long shot rather than a realistic possibility.

It wasn't as if I was playing poorly. I was playing 27 minutes per game for the NHL's third-worst defensive team, and I was minus-4.

Just three years before I had won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. Only two years before, I was a second-team NHL All-Star, meaning I was considered among the NHL's top four defensemen.

Even if the organization wanted to go in a different direction, couldn't the Blackhawks have treated me with more respect near the end of my time?

As Steve Reich pointed out publicly, this wasn't how the Bruins were dealing with Raymond Bourque, who was only a couple of years older than me.

On February 22, (Dirk) Graham was fired as the head coach, and assistant Lorne Molleken was promoted to coach on an interim basis. It didn't seem like that changed how Murray perceived my future with the organization.

Six days before the trade deadline, I heard that Bob Probert and Dave Manson were going to be placed on waivers. It seemed like a fire sale was imminent, and the Blackhawks were going to embrace a traditional rebuilding effort. It looked as if they were going to strip the roster down to the bare bones and go with younger players.

Immediately, I dialed Mr. Wirtz's lawyer and left a message saying that I wanted to talk about a contract extension. When he didn't return my call, I figured his answer couldn't be any clearer. It was obvious that Murray and the Blackhawks had decided that I wasn't going to lead the rebuilding effort.

Murray told me to just play out my contract and then there would be a job for me within the organization. I knew that if Murray said that, he did so with the blessing of Mr. Wirtz. If Mr. Wirtz said I would have a job, I would have a job.

The problem was that I didn't feel as if I was at the end of my career -- far from it. I felt like I had some gas left in the tank, and the thought of hanging up my skates forever just because the front office wanted me to didn't feel right.

For a couple of days, I did consider the possibility that my career was over, but after a lot of soul searching I told Murray to trade me. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I would've done almost anything to finish my career in Chicago; I just wanted to do it on my terms.

"I don't care where I go," I told Murray. "Just trade me. I won't argue about where you send me."

To their credit, the Hawks granted me and my agents the right to negotiate with other teams. The San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers were the teams most interested in me, and the Carolina Hurricanes were also in the mix.

Then suddenly, Detroit general manager Ken Holland came out of nowhere with an offer.

The Red Wings were trying to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup, and they had been searching two years for a defenseman to replace Vladimir Konstantinov, who couldn't play after suffering brain damage in a 1997 limousine accident. The Red Wings were willing to give me a two-year extension for $11 million. The $5.5 million per season represented a significant raise.

In compensation to the Blackhawks, they offered a younger defenseman, Anders Eriksson, and two first-round draft picks. The Red Wings were giving me the kind of respect that I had been looking for from the Blackhawks. Clearly, they didn't think I was washed up just yet.

So much has been made of me going to play for the Red Wings, but ironically, one of the biggest reasons I decided to go to Detroit was because it was so close to Chicago. You could make the drive between the two cities in under five hours. The flight time was less than an hour. It would be so much easier on my family than trying to relocate to one of the coasts.

Also, my sister Gigi had been battling cancer for a long time, and I wanted to be close enough to travel home to see her. She had been fighting off the disease for almost a decade, going into remission twice. But now the cancer had returned, and I didn't want to be too far away from her. We were only a year and half apart in age and we were very close.

I had just built a new, beautiful home in Chicago, and I told my wife we would not be selling it because I expected to return home. My plan was to rent it.

Even though I was fully aware of what was happening behind the scenes, when the trade actually went through I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

This excerpt from Made in America by Chris Chelios with Kevin Allen is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information, please visit www.triumphbooks.com/ChrisChelios.