How Does a 30-Something Blackhawks Fan Feel About Chris Chelios Jersey Retirement?

Editor’s Note: on Sunday afternoon, the Blackhawks will celebrate the career of Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios by retiring his No. 7. That announcement had been met with a great deal of conversation over the past few months, and now the day is nearly here. So many Blackhawks fans have mixed feelings about Chelios’ legacy in Chicago, so we’re offering up the thoughts of a couple generations of fans who grew up cheering for — and, later, against — Chelios. On Saturday, Tab shared his thoughts as a mid-40s Blackhawks fan.

Should Chris Chelios‘ No. 7 be retired in the rafters at the United Center? The simple answer is probably yes but for several Blackhawks fans (myself included) it’s a complicated question.

I was born in 1992, so the dramatic, traumatic Chelios trade to Detroit is one of my first memories as a sports fan. At the time, it felt like the biggest slap in the face. To be the captain of the Blackhawks, a hometown kid, a fan favorite, and be one of the best players in franchise history… seeing him accept the trade, make the move to Detroit, win Cups there, play there longer than he did Chicago, that stung.

And it did for a long time.

But also, in hindsight, I get why he did it. The Hawks were essentially ready for a firesale. Chelios didn’t wan’t to leave, but management then had zero interest in bringing him back and essentially tried for force his hand. He wasn’t ready to hang up the skates, Chicago didn’t want to extend him. The Red Wings made him the best offer. He was upset the organization didn’t want him back, and Detroit offered him the best contract extension. What else was he supposed to do?

Had he made that move to San Jose, Philadelphia, Carolina, or anywhere else, Hawks fans probably wouldn’t have cared nearly as much. I certainly wouldn’t have carried the grudge nearly as long as I did. But those options, while they were on the table, were nowhere near as lucrative.

After all this time has passed, it’s really hard for me to drum up too many hard feelings. Things ended up working out quite alright. A decade after the trade the Hawks entered the golden age of the franchise’s history that saw three Stanley Cups and a handful of the greatest players in Hawks history.

Time heals all wounds, and this one seems to be pretty much fully behind me. Chelios is not only a Blackhawks great, but one of the best defensemen in league history. No, he didn’t win a Cup but he came damn close and won a pair of Norris Trophies here. The issue I do have with the jersey retirement though is the timing. As someone who watched the Hawks win all those Cups during my high school, college, and young adult years, I think there’s another number seven that’s every bit as deserving to have their name and number up in the rafters.

For me, while I absolutely think Chris Chelios deserves a banner, I just hope he’s not the only No. 7 that gets his name in the rafters. Brent Seabrook deserves to be up there right alongside him. Yes, both players were outstanding and probably deserve their own night.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Hawks have retired one number and two players, however. When the Hawks raised number three to the rafters, Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson were honored on the same night. Of course, those carried some different circumstances, but it’s doable.

Both Chelios and Seabrook are Hawks legends. They both deserve their number up in the rafters. Retiring No. 7 for Chelios now doesn’t at all guarantee Seabrook won’t get his night as well, but it wouldn’t sit right with me to have one name go up and not the other. Was Chelios the better player? Yes, he was. But while Seabs might not have had Chelios’ numbers, he was a locker room leader for three Stanley Cup teams. Without Seabrook, there aren’t three Cups and who knows if there are any.

Something tells me I probably don’t have to convince many of you that Seabrook deserves his name up in the rafters alongside Chelios, but I still wanted to emphasize how deserving he is. So in my opinion on Sunday night, cheer the hell out of Chris Chelios. Support a Hawks legend and a hometown Chicago kid and give him a warm welcome home. But when that night is done and that number is raised, I hope the Hawks don’t wait too long to do the same for Seabrook.

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Matt is from the Chicagoland area and has been working in Chicago sports since 2015 with stops at WGN Radio, the Chicago Blackhawks, Stadium, and NBC Sports Chicago prior to landing at Betsperts. Matt covers just about everything for Betsperts and Bleacher Nation but focuses on the NHL and college football.

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