CHICAGO – Chris Chelios couldn’t help but smile while standing in front of the Cheli’s Chili pop-up at United Center, a nod to the sports bar and restaurant the former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman once owned.
“They’ve done a great job, business will be booming, it’s the greatest chili in North America, I guarantee you that,” Chelios said before cutting the ribbon with his daughter, Caley, a reporter and studio analyst for the Blackhawks.
The pop-up is part of one of several celebrations for Chelios, who will have his No. 7 retired by the Blackhawks prior to their game against the Detroit Red Wings at United Center on Feb. 25 (6 p.m. ET; BSDET, NHLN, NBCSCH, SN).
Has Chelios thought about what it’ll feel like that night?
“For the last four months, since they announced it,” said Chelios, whose number retirement was announced by Eddie Vedder at a Pearl Jam concert at United Center on Sept. 8.
“Honest to God, a lot of sleepless nights. Mostly nervous about the speech, what I'm going to say. Hopefully it’ll just come out the way you want. I don’t know if it’s a dream come true because it wasn’t my dream growing up as a kid, not even to play in the NHL. But looking back now, I guess the thing that’s most impressive to me is it’s in my hometown and that’s the dream come true, to have my jersey retired in my hometown.”
Chelios’ ceremony begins at 3:10 p.m. CT on Feb. 25 but he’ll be sharing the in-game spotlight with another great United States-born player. Patrick Kane, the No. 1 pick for the Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Draft who played for them from 2007 until he was traded to the New York Rangers last season, returns for the first time since that trade, as a Red Wings forward.
Chelios said he’s working Kane into his speech.
“Hopefully I can make him crack a smile, but I hope to God he doesn’t try to steal the show and get first star that day,” Chelios said.
Ticketed fans can purchase chili for $7 as well as beverages and exclusive Cheli’s Chili merchandise at the United Center atrium at each of the Blackhawks’ home games this month.