Caley Chelios and her father, Chris Chelios, have an atypical relationship. While she was still learning to walk, he was making a name for himself as a future Hall of Famer in the NHL.
Chris’ 27 years of excellence included 17 All-Star selections, three Stanley Cups and four appearances on the U.S. Olympic hockey team. His daughter added a NCAA women's lacrosse national title to the family resumé when the 'Cats won the championship in 2012. The junior defensemen on the Northwestern lacrosse team is used to the attention that comes with being the daughter of a superstar.
She’s had to deal with people who treat her like the “daughter of Chris Chelios” instead of just being known as Caley and while it’s easy to let this behavior bog her down, she has turned it into a positive.
“I think that the name Chelios, there’s a lot that comes with it, so you show up somewhere and some people want to kick your butt and some people think that you walk in there and they have really high expectations for you,” she said. “Honestly, it just makes you work a lot harder. I don’t know if any of us can fill those shoes, he’s such an amazing guy... If anything, I think I used it and my siblings used it as a thing to look up to, not something to get upset about.”
Caley, who’s from Detroit, had an unusual childhood by society’s standards, but for her, it felt completely normal. Since her father was on the road all the time, their mother raised her and her three siblings and did everything for them.
“[My dad] wasn’t around a ton, but we would go to his games when they were home and whenever he came home it was all that more special and it was a big surprise,” Caley said. “He’d always bring us a little something from wherever he went.”
Chris played for the Blackhawks from 1990 to 1999, and his oldest daughter still has fond memories of that time in her life. She remembers riding the Zamboni on the ice before and after practices, fooling around with the other player’s children in the locker room and chasing the candy-trolley during games.
In 2002, when Chris was playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Caley finally saw her dad reach the pinnacle of his sport, when his Red Wings defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup. It was the second of Chris’ career, but the first one Caley was alive to see.
“It was pretty amazing,” she said. “I mean watching my dad, like he’s not very outwardly expressive, but I remember when they won like he was screaming and dancing all over the ice, so that was pretty special to see that... I don’t think you can explain how awesome it is. They just looked so happy.”
As her dad was excelling at a professional level, Caley chose to pick up sports on her own. Her parents didn’t push her to do so; it’s just something that was fueled by her competitive nature, especially with her three siblings. While Caley obviously excelled in lacrosse in high school, she was a hockey star as well, leading Cranbrook High School's team in points in both 2009 and 2010. Since joining the Northwestern lacrosse team in 2011, Caley has appeared in just 11 games and taken just one shot on goal. This season, she played in a game against Marquette Feb. 25, where the ‘Cats beat the Golden Eagles, 20-5.
She owes a lot of that success on the ice and the turf to her father, who taught her almost everything she knows. He didn’t just offer sports advice to his children; he was a great mentor in all aspects of life.
“He was never the most athletic, necessarily, or the best at hockey, but he worked harder than everyone out there and he stayed in the best shape,” she said “[He told me] if things aren’t going your way you have to work your butt off and get what you get... usually the hard working people are the one’s getting something out of it.”
That hard work added longevity to his career. While most NHL players retire before the age of 40, Chris was still going at it into his mid-40s, and by the time he retired in 2009, at the age of 46, he had become the second oldest hockey player ever to play in an NHL game.
It wasn’t easy for him to hang up the skates, but it was a decision that made the most sense for Chris and his family.
“We asked him why, he kind of made a joke and was just like, ‘zero points, zero goals, zero assists, it’s time,’” Caley said. “It was really awesome to see him finally settle down, move forward, retire and look back at his life and be proud of it like we are.”