I had an opportunity recently to interview Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, who played two years of Bantam hockey and one of Midget in Southern California.
Part of the deal was getting to watch he and a host of other NHL players go through TR Goodman’s famously torturous workouts.
Cheli’s work ethic has to be seen to be believed. When the Wings announced the 46-year-old had signed for another season, many of my hockey-playing pals responded with astonishment. I’m not taking that bait. He is one of the fittest people I’ve ever seen.
Cheli also is as focused and driven of an athlete as I’ve seen in any sport in 20 years of covering pro, college and high school athletics.
What struck me most about his training was the pace he maintained despite continuous repititions. After a summer of that, I hardly think training camp is a challenge for him.
How much longer can he play? In comments to the Detroit media last week he said he realized the Wings have a number of young defensemen they want to give minutes to this season – likely at his expense. But no matter how he tries to convince himself that’s OK, I got the impression it really isn’t.
Will he really play until he is 50? I truly think he could.
Cheli is a warrior, and like him or hate him, he lives to compete – against his body, and against others.
How does an NCAA Division III college hockey team relate to this book?
Let me explain.
I first was exposed to heavier doses of hockey in 1996 while covering St. Norbert College in DePere, Wis. Over the course of a few years, I grew to love the sport more and actually began playing it at age 30.
From three years covering the Green Knights I gained a handful of lifelong friends and many terrific acquaintances. Two of the closest friends are SNC coach Tim Coghlin and his wife Barb.
Cogs, as he’s known, showed plenty of patience as I learned the game well enough to write about it and not completely embarrass myself. His ability to teach extends beyond the ice, and it is not exclusively for his players. You remove St. Norbert College hockey from my resume, and I’m not writing this book, simple as that.
This past Sunday, St. Norbert won its first national championship in Coghlin’s 15 seasons at the school. It was the Knights’ third trip to the final and fifth to the Frozen Four.
The trophy could not have found a better home.
Because I love the sport and have a lot of background covering it, that’s why!
I believe it’s a healthy thing for people to pursue their passions, and the book project I’m working on is one of them.
In this blog I will share my experiences dealing with players, coaches and administrators from the NHL, junior, college and youth ranks. I have come across many compelling stories and met many amazing people in the process.
To learn more about the book, visit www.palmtreesandfrozenponds.com
Join me for the ride!