DETROIT — Chris Chelios, the longest-tenured defenceman in NHL history, is finally hanging up his skates.
After 26 NHL seasons and three Stanley Cups, Chelios announced his retirement Tuesday at the age of 48.
“I guess I’ve been dreading this day for a long time,” he said at a news conference in Detroit.
Chelios, who won three Norris Trophies during a career that included stops in Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta, will become an adviser with the Red Wings. His new job will include working with Detroit’s front office and coaching staffs while helping to develop and mentor young players.
In NHL history, only Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was older than Chelios when he played, skating at 52 for the Hartford Whalers during the 1979-80 season almost a decade after leaving the Red Wings.
Chelios also is the only player in NHL history to appear in at least 400 games with three different teams.
Known for his strict workout regimen and surprising endurance given his age, he played the fourth-most regular season games in NHL history (1,651) and the most post-season games in NHL history (266).
Chelios said he has “nothing left in the tank.”
Chelios represented the U.S. on four Olympic hockey teams, including three as team captain — in 1984, in 1998, the silver-medal team in 2002 and in 2006. He spent seven seasons with the Canadiens before being traded to his hometown Chicago Blackhawks in June 1990. He played nine seasons there before being traded to conference rival Detroit.
He was limited to 28 games with Detroit during the 2008-09 regular season because of a broken leg suffered during an exhibition game and the Wings chose not to bring him back following season. Not ready to retire just yet, Chelios signed a few months later with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, and in March was recalled by the Atlanta Thrashers, where he appeared in seven games.
“I loved every minute of it,” he said of his long career.
Chelios, who ranks second all-time among defencemen with 2,891 penalty minutes, had this to say Tuesday to the fans of opposing teams: “I hope you’ll forgive me for the things I did to some of the players on your teams.”