Did you know that Chelios and Recchi both played for the Victoria Cougars? In this edition of Bloodlines, we look at two Cougars alumni and their Hall of Fame brothers.
Chris Chelios. Born in Chicago, Chelios was a late bloomer as he initially received no U.S. college scholarship offers. To further his development, he went to Canada and played for the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. While in Moose Jaw, his game improved and grew into a top prospect. In 1981, the Montreal Canadiens drafted Chelios in the second round and earned a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. At Wisconsin, he was a part of their 1983 NCAA championship team and went on to join the U.S. Olympic hockey team. After the 1984 Olympics, he made his NHL debut with the Canadiens. He went on to play 26 seasons in the NHL, appearing in 1,651 games, winning three Norris trophies and three Stanley Cups. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. Here is a recent Q&A he did with NHL.com.
I had trouble finding information about Chris’ younger brother, Steve Chelios, but he has one of the most fascinating statistical pages on Hockey Database. Steve enjoyed a long career but never stayed with one team very long as he skated with thirty-three different teams in fourteen leagues over his career. As an eighteen-year-old, he spent 1986-87 with the Penticton Knights of the BCJHL. When their season ended in March, he joined the Victoria Cougars. On March 14, 1987, Steve scored his first Western Hockey League goal in a 9-4 Cougars loss to the Kamloops Blazers. In eight regular season games, he picked six points and appeared in five playoff games. The Cougars struggled to finish the year losing fourteen of their last eighteen games and were swept by Kamloops in the first round of the playoffs.
Steve Chelios may be the only junior player to suit up for teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Laval and Verdun in 1985-86), the WHL (Victoria, Spokane and New Westminster from 1987 to 1988) and the Ontario Hockey League (Ottawa 1988).
A 1988 article in the Ottawa Citizen describes his unique characteristics. “Steve Chelios. The irrepressible little imp of the Ottawa 67's. The Killer's (Coach Brian Kilrea’s) fright, the fans' delight. Five-foot-eight, 170 pounds of whimsy, eccentricity, mischief, enthusiasm, energy, unbridled confidence and unharnessed talent.” (1)
Although Steve never made it to the National Hockey League, he attended the 1990 New York Rangers rookie camp and the 1993 Chicago Blackhawks training camp, with his brother Chris. There were many brief stops in his eleven years of professional hockey including Europe, a stint with Roller Hockey International, won a championship with Quad City of the Colonial Hockey League and even managed to play with four different ECHL teams during the 1990-91 season. Steve remains involved in hockey and currently coaches in the Chicago area.
Mark Recchi was voted the 23rd best player in Western Hockey League history as part of the WHL’s 50th Season celebration and has his number retired by the Kamloops Blazers. In 1987-88, Recchi led the WHL with 93 assists and third in scoring with 154 points. The Pittsburgh Penguins selected Recchi in the fourth round of the 1988 NHL entry draft and joined the Penguins full time in 1989. As a rookie, Recchi scored thirty goals and the next year was on Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup championship team. He went on to play twenty-two seasons in the NHL, appearing in 1,652 games, racking up 1,533 points and winning three Stanley Cups. As a member of the Boston Bruins in 2010/11, he won the Stanley Cup in his very last NHL game against the Canucks. At age 43, he is the oldest player to score a goal in a Stanley Cup final series. He is currently part-owner of the Kamloops Blazers and an Assistant Coach with the New Jersey Devils. In 2017, Recchi was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Mark and his younger brother, Matt Recchi, both grew up playing hockey in Kamloops. Matt appeared in fifteen games for the Victoria Cougars in 1991-92, scoring one goal and three assists. His only WHL goal came on October 31, 1991, in a 6-5 loss to the Tri-City Americans. In November, he was assigned to the Victoria Warriors of the BCJHL and went on to pick up 53 points in 40 games. After being cut by Louisville of the ECHL, Matt became a professional bull rider on the Canadian Circuit. (2) In 1999, he returned to hockey as a part-time assistant coach with the Kamloops Blazers and later become an advance scout for the Vancouver Giants. After three seasons scouting for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Matt rejoined the Kamloops Blazers in 2008 as their Director of Player Personnel and held that position until 2017.