Aged Chelios still going strong and there's no end in sight

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

DETROIT -- The fountain of youth, Chris Chelios has discovered, is not far from his off-season home in Malibu, Calif.

For the 44-year-old, it comes in the form of a mountain bike, which he rides religiously in the hills of southern California during the summer months.

It has to be something tangible, because Chelios turns 45 on Jan. 25 and there is nothing logical to explain why, at his age, he remains an effective NHL defenceman.

"There are just some things -- impact exercises, quickness -- that I can't do physically to train anymore," Chelios, who recently skated in his 1,500th NHL game, said after practice yesterday. "I really can't believe what mountain-biking has done for my legs and knees and joints. I literally have thousands of miles of trails right across the street from my house. It makes it so easy."

It's that passion for staying fit, combined with a passion for playing, that keeps Chelios going. He is not riding out the string, as others have done before him with more years in hand. Chelios is averaging 17 minutes, 49 seconds a game on the Wings blue line.

And he does it with such a small set of shoulder pads it looks like he does not wear any at all.

The oldest player in the NHL, Chelios also is older than seven NHL coaches, including those who will be behind the benches tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

"A few days ago after practice, he did not think we had done enough, so there he was with the guys who have not played as many minutes, doing the extra skating," 43-year-old Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

"Phenomenal. It's amazing, the energy he has."

How much longer does Chelios, who makes $850,000 US this season, want to continue?

"Mentally, I want to play forever," Chelios said. "When I do end up finishing, it will be for a physical reason and not because of (losing) my desire. At my age, there are going to be doubters. But I do not feel uncomfortable at all."


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