November 26, 2010

Chelios Takes a Page out of Favre’s Playbook

It’s official. Defenseman Chris Chelios is hockey’s equivalent of Brett Favre, minus the gratuitous shots of male genitalia, of course.

Favre’s recent sexting scandal aside, is there another hockey player out there that best embodies Favre’s desire to compete well into his years as an octogenarian? Because there’s no way around saying it: Chelios is just as bad as the over-the-hill quarterback... maybe even worse if you factor in his being eight years older and not cutting it at his sport’s highest level any more. More to the point, despite retiring in August at the age of 48, Chelios is finding it difficult to let go and has decided to return based on reports Friday that he’s in negotiations to play in the KHL.

If there was ever indication that Chelios is both desperate to keep playing AND that his skills aren’t up to snuff any longer, this is unfortunately it. Because what was once Russia’s superleague is actually about as super as Clark Kent during a colonoscopy, being prodded open with a bar of kryptonite. Because the team for which he might end up playing, Vityaz Chekhov, boasts the talents of such renowned former North American superstars as Josh Gratton and Chris Simon. That’s right. Chris Simon. The guy that was forced out of the NHL, because he could no longer play the role of a tough guy, beating opponents senseless until they were bloodied mangled corpses on the ice, on the up-and-up.

Far be it for me to criticize one of the game’s great defensemen, a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, but in order to even get nominated you kind of have to stay retired. I understand that getting in after three years and then returning to the game (a la Gordie Howe) is out of the question seeing as at that point he’ll be on the verge of surpasssing Howe’s record of playing until he was 52 (kind of, with Howe being the oldest NHLer to retire at the age of 52) and that’s something he said he would never do out of sheer principle. Even so, this is getting kind of ridonkulous. Impressively ridonkulous, but ridonkulous all the same.

"Ahh, how I look fondly back upon the days when I was a young and naive youngster of just 41."

Chelios deserves to do what he loves, and if he loves playing professional hockey up until he’s 80, power to him. I mean he loves hockey so much he played in the AHL last year, biding his time until he got a worthwhile offer to return to the NHL. But he should realize that he only managed to play seven games with the Atlanta Thrashers last year, earning a +/- rating of -2. That was his first negative rating since being on some pretty bad Chicago Blackhawks teams in the late 1990s... which, just to offer some perspective, was around the time his teammate Evander Kane was entering second grade.

His game is clearly not where it was (amazingly, though, I’m sure there are coastlines that have eroded worse than he has under the test of time), so it’s clear the only thing he’s looking to accomplish is to hold onto a key part of his past just a little longer. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se... it’s just freakish is all. If he wants to play in Russia and be thought of by his “peers” as some relic from before the collapse of the Soviet Union (which he actually is), it’s of course his choice, but maybe before any decision is final he should watch a Minnesota Vikings game or two on television and realize that Favre’s hindering and not helping his team.

"In just 20 years, maybe."
Admittedly the role Chelios would likely fill would not carry as much responsibility as that of a QB, but even that should be taken by him as a hint for him to stay retired. And if Favre’s fall from grace isn’t enough of a deterrent, maybe an example that hits a little closer to home will be: does he really want to be like Dominik Hasek? Does anyone? He’s proven his point, that he can. But he shouldn’t and instead should take a step back before the term “groin pull” takes on the not-so-fun meaning.

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