CHICAGO – Jake Chelios wears a famous name on the back of his sweater.
It’s one of many gifts that he inherited from his father, Chris, who tallied 948 points and 2,891 penalty minutes during a spectacular 26-season NHL career. On Tuesday, Chris Chelios was one of five people selected to join the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Growing up here, I don’t think I realized how big of a name it was,” said Jake Chelios, a 22-year-old defenseman taking part in this week’s Blackhawks prospect camp. “But then, coming back 10 years later, you realize that everybody knows the last name.”
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
“It’s both,” Chelios said with a smile. “You never know. It depends who you’re playing against.”
Ah, yes. Opposing hockey teams. Now, we’re talking some great names.
The Hawks’ prospect camp is packed with players from almost every hockey background imaginable. Of the 25 forwards, 19 defensemen and seven goaltenders on the camp roster, more than a dozen college conferences and junior hockey leagues are represented.
Granted, no other prospect has a last name nearly as popular as Chelios. But check out some of the names that these guys have worn on the front of their sweaters.
Milos Bubela played forward for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Jason Bast did the same for the Victoria Salmon Kings. And history will look back fondly on Sam Babintsev’s days as a Mississauga Steelhead.
Not to provoke any Fighting Saints – who knew Benedict could box? – but defenseman Dillon Fournier probably deserves the top prize in the Weirdest Team Name category. Fournier, a promising 19-year-old who was the Hawks’ second-round selection in 2012, spent the 2010-11 campaign as a member of the Lewiston MAINEiacs.
You read that correctly. The Lewiston MAINEiacs.
Go ahead. Guess the state in which they played.
It must have been kind of embarrassing to wear that sweater, yeah?
“Oh, no,” Fournier said. “We liked it. The fans loved it. We just had a good laugh with it. It was fun.”
In fact, none of the Hawks prospects seemed to mind the goofy team names for which he played. Mark it down as reason No. 3,597 why hockey players are the most easy-going athletes.
Zach Loesch was a Fresno Monster before becoming a Pembroke Lumber King. Kent Simpson was an Everett Silvertip before becoming a Toledo Walleye and – you probably know this one – a Rockford IceHog. Alex Broadhurst once was a Green Bay Gambler.
Hey Alex, did you come across a lot of gamblers in Green Bay?
“I didn’t come across many gamblers, but I’m sure there are,” Broadhurst said with a laugh. “They’re always out there.”
True. Kind of like weird team names.
“I thought Youngstown Phantoms was pretty weird,” Broadhurst said. “They had purple jerseys.”
“No,” Broadhurst said. “Their bus is just … purple. It’s kind of funny.”
Tim O’Brien knows all about playing against the super-purple Phantoms. That name and several others were part of the charm of playing in the United States Hockey League.
“All of the teams in that league are pretty unique,” said O’Brien, a native of Wilmette. “You’ve got the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and the Sioux City Musketeers and the Chicago Steel.”
O’Brien was one of the Sioux City Musketeers.
“Musketeers is definitely up there,” O’Brien said. “I don’t even know what a Musketeer is.”
It’s hard to blame him. Nothing says hockey like a guy who held a musket a few hundred years ago.
To a man, every Hawks prospect is thrilled to be able to wear the Indian Head logo on his chest. There is no confusion as to what the Hawks represent: an Original Six franchise that has won two Stanley Cup titles in the past four seasons.
“It has such a big fan base,” Fournier said. “It has been around for so many years. It’s real cool to see how people react.
“Everyone knows the team. Everyone knows the logo. Everyone knows the name. It’s real special.”
Well said, Mr. MAINEiac. Well said.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.