Chelios takes first bobsled run
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Chris Chelios grabbed his red helmet, listened to some last-minute instructions, and then hit the ice -- running.
With the NHL lockout in full swing, Chelios traded his skates Wednesday night for a pair of black booties and took three teeth-chattering runs in a two-man bobsled down the track at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
"That might hurt worse than hockey. Geez!" the 42-year-old defenseman said after his first run, sweat beading off his head, and his heart pounding as he stood at the finish line. "What a rush. We had some good speed. It's the fastest thing I've ever done. You don't have any control the way you're moving, I'll tell you that. I'm nervous now."
He needn't have been too much on edge because he wasn't driving. U.S. women's bobsled star Jean Racine and men's driver John Napier were at the controls.
"At first, I thought, 'Should I hit a wall?' " Racine said, smiling after going 80 mph down the course. "I figured he's a tough hockey player. He's used to taking a hit into the boards. But I thought for the first time I'd try to make it nice and smooth and fun. Maybe next run. We don't get too many hockey players out here, but he was pretty confident. If he was nervous, he really didn't show it."
If the lockout continues, Chelios, whose parents are Greek, is toying with the idea of trying out for the Greek Olympic bobsled team for the 2006 Winter Games at Turin, Italy.
"If the timing's right and the season's not looking like it's going to go, then I'll have the opportunity to compete and try to qualify for the Olympics. We'll see," said Chelios, who plans to train in Calgary, Alberta, and then return here in two weeks for more. "I don't kid myself if I'm not good at it. 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."
Clearly, though, he wants to play hockey, even at his age, and remains distressed over the lockout. The regular season was scheduled to begin Wednesday night.
"I've approached the last two weeks like it was time for training camp," said Chelios, who is a free agent after playing out his contract with the Detroit Red Wings. "I've been working out and skating, but it's going to get old quick just practicing. We've only got six or seven guys a side in pickup hockey. I intend to play somewhere. It looks like it's going to go long.
"The only thing that's frustrating is for the fans," Chelios said. "They're the ones who are suffering, and the people who pretty much depend on the revenues from hockey to survive, whether it's restaurants, hotels, bar owners. They're going to suffer. That's the unfortunate thing. The players, the owners, they're going to be fine when this is all said and done. Hopefully, there won't be too much damage done to the game."
Chelios, who has four children, said if he plays any hockey he would stay close to home -- most likely with the nearby American Hockey League team.
"Realistically, I want to stay with the Chicago Wolves," he said. "It's so close to home. I could commute with my kids. If it gets too tough with the commuting, it won't be worth it to be away from the family. We'll see how it goes."
If Chelios is serious about his bobsled aspirations, one experienced onlooker said he had what it takes.
"There are two things you look for," said John Morgan, a former U.S. bobsledder who has covered the last six Winter Olympics as an analyst. "You look in their eyes and the back of their pants."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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