Chris Chelios captained the United States men’s hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, the fourth and final Olympics appearance for the then-44-year-old, who set a record by appearing in an Olympics hockey tournament 22 years after his first appearance.
Sixteen months earlier, Chelios began his quest on the ice for the fourth Olympics appearance, though he did so as a hopeful for the Greek bobsled team.
When the NHL lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, some players joined international leagues, some coached youth hockey, and some (i.e., Jaromir Jagr) played beach volleyball in Russia.
Chelios recruited professional surfer Laird Hamilton to represent Greece – where they both have ancestral ties – in the two-man bobsled at the 2006 games in Turin.
“Now that I’ve got the time, why not?” Chelios told ESPN in November 2004 after a training run in Lake Placid. “It’s not like I’m laying around moping.”
When he should’ve been a month into his 24th NHL season, the three-time Norris Trophy winner was preparing for a late-November test run in Calgary that would determine if Greece’s bid could move forward. The country had previously competed in the bobsled at the Olympics – with two- and four-man teams in 1998 – and sponsored a team since 1994 but had no serious plans to send a team to Italy.
Chris Chelios wins Stanley Cups, revolutionizes defense, & tries out for the Olympic Greek bobsled team. Raise your glass for Chris Chelios!
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) October 1, 2013
“I don’t kid myself if I’m not good at it,” Chelios said. “But it’s not going to be tough to make the Greek team. Basically, if our hearts are in it, we’re on the team just because of the lack of participation.”
Their hearts were in it, but the results weren’t; the pair failed to qualify for the games, where ultimately, Chelios and the men’s hockey team placed eighth. And, 16 years later and four Winter Olympics later, Greece hasn’t sent another bobsled team to the games.
The NHL lockout officially ended the following summer, which set the stage for Chelios’ 24th season after signing a new deal with the Red Wings. And in February 2006, when he dreamt of flying down the 4,700-foot bobsled track at Cesana Pariol, he was appearing in his 1,400th career NHL game while leading Detroit to a fifth straight division title and league-best 124 points.
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