Flashback: Michael Jordan comes to the defense of Chris Chelios

Talk about one Chicago legend having the back of another!



The Detroit Red Wings pulled off a bold trade at the 1999 NHL Trade Deadline, bringing aboard former hated rival Chris Chelios from the Chicago Blackhawks. Chelios would go on to play a decade for the Red Wings, and was a part of two Stanley Cup winning squads. 

But for the longest time, Chicago fans weren't exactly fond of Chelios for switching sides in the rivalry. Every time the Red Wings returned to United Center, Chelios would routinely be booed by the jilted fans for wearing the Winged Wheel after captaining the Blackhawks for so long. 

The Red Wings played the final game of the 1998-99 regular season in Chicago, and it was Chelios' first appearance back in his former home since the move. As you can expect, he was mercilessly booed and jeered by the fans in the 1st period.  

“The fans booed me every time I touched the puck,” Chelios writes in the book Chris Chelios: Made in America. “I know I should have expected that reaction, but to be honest it was unnerving. That was when I realized the depth of anger the Chicago fans had worked up for me. They saw me as a traitor.”

After that, Detroit coach Scotty Bowman gave Chelios the rest of the night off. He then watched the remainder of the game with none other than Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles during the course of his Hall of Fame career. 

“I dressed and watched the third period with Jordan in a suite. My old team wound up beating my new team 3-2.”

“Jordan had my back, telling everyone ‘I’m not here for the Blackhawks, I’m here for Chris Chelios. I don’t like how they treated him’,” Chelios recalls. “That was nice of MJ to say, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have any ill will toward the Blackhawks.”

It certainly did take some getting used to for fans on both sides of the rivalry seeing Chelios suit up in the Winged Wheel, especially considering comments he had made in the past indicating that he'd never play for Detroit.