Chris Chelios

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick highlight former players at 2018 Blackhawks Convention

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick highlight former players at 2018 Blackhawks Convention

The Blackhawks will host a sizable group of alumni at the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby and Dennis Hull, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard and Chris Chelios are some of the former players highlighting the event, starting on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. on NBC Chicago’s “Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies.”

Blackhawks broadcaster Olczyk, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cubs game Tuesday night in anticipation of the convention. The 1994 Stanley Cup winner announced he was cancer-free in March, making his appearance even more special.

Roenick, a Blackhawks all-time top 10 goal scorer (267) and points leader (596), will take part in the weekend for the first time.

“I think early that maybe the relationship wasn’t strong enough,” Roenick said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “… And I think going to the convention is so important to the city and so important to the franchise in terms of what they do for people in the city.”

Chelios will be introduced as the newest team ambassador this weekend. The Blackhawks announced Monday morning that the Hall of Fame defenseman is once again a member of the organization.

“To be able to join the Blackhawks organization in this role means everything to me,” Chelios said about his new position. “… Chicago is my hometown and returning to this organization is very special to me and my family.”

The list of past Blackhawks players who will also be present includes Bryan Bickell, Adam Burish, Brian Campbell, Eric Daze, Ben Eager, Tony Esposito, Colin Fraser, Stu Grimson, Steve Larmer, Jamal Mayers, Troy Murray, Bernie Nicholls, Phil Russell and Patrick Sharp.

John Scott, the controversial NHL All-Star who had only registered one point with the Arizona Coyotes leading up to his fan vote selection during the 2015-16 season, will also be a fun player in attendance. He only notched two points in 69 games with Chicago.

The present players and staff members attending the gathering feature Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and head coach Joel Quenneville, among others.

According to the Blackhawks, fans can interact with these ex-members, current players, coaches and team executives through activities like autograph and photo sessions.

Blackhawks name Hall of Famer Chris Chelios their latest team ambassador

Blackhawks name Hall of Famer Chris Chelios their latest team ambassador

After eight seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Hall of Famer Chris Chelios is coming home.

The Blackhawks announced Monday morning that Chelios will become the newest team ambassador, joining Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard. He'll be formally introduced at the annual Blackhawks Convention this weekend.

“To be able to join the Blackhawks organization in this role means everything to me,” Chelios said in a statement. “I’m very thankful to Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough for this opportunity to return to the Blackhawks. Chicago is my hometown and returning to this organization is very special to me and my family.”

Chelios has spent the last eight seasons in Detroit where he last played, spending time both in the front office and as a player development coach. The Chicago native and Mount Carmel High School alum will return to his roots where he spent nine seasons, earning seven All-Star appearances while compiling 92 goals and 487 assists - both fourth all-time among Blackhawks defensemen - in 664 games. The team captain from 1995 to 1999 helped the Blackhawks to the playoffs seven times, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1992.

“Through multiple generations of players and fans, Chris Chelios will forever be etched into the history of the Chicago Blackhawks,” Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “His contributions to our organization and the overall sport of hockey stand tall. We are proud to welcome Chris and his family back home to the United Center and we are honored to call him an ambassador.”

Chelios won three Stanley Cups during his 26-year NHL career, twice Detroit and once with Montreal, and his 1,651 career games are most all-time for defensemen. He won a silver medal with Team USA in 2002 and was an assistant coach at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

The winding road to PyeongChang for one Chicagoan

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The winding road to PyeongChang for one Chicagoan

Matt McIlvane might be the only American in PyeongChang rooting against the U.S. men's hockey team.

But at least he has a damn good reason.

McIlvane - a native of Naperville, Ill. - is an assistant coach on the German men's hockey team, a position he's held for all of two weeks.

Every single person who is currently experiencing the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang has had a whirlwind journey to get to this point. But McIlvane stands as one of the last people in the world to find out he'd be attending the Games.

McIlvane has spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach to Don Jackson for the Munich Red Bulls Ice Hockey Club in Germany. There was a last-second coaching change on Team Germany ahead of PyeongChang, leaving a vacancy that McIlvane ended up filling just a couple days before the team was supposed to leave for South Korea.

The German ice hockey league does what the NHL used to do - goes on break for most of February since many players in the league are partaking in the Winter Games. McIlvane was supposed to fly home to Chicago with his wife, Megan, and their son for the month-long break, but instead had to stay in Germany as he awaited his Olympic fate.

"I found out that next day it was 100 percent, so I ended up going and meeting the team and went to training camp," McIlvane said. "We're literally talking last minute, which is kind of incredible. It's totally surreal."

[Complete Olympic hockey coverage at NBCOlympics.com]

Even before arriving in South Korea, McIlvane had his own Olympic moment, as Team Germany shared a (significantly delayed) flight to Seoul with Lindsey Vonn.

"I knew I had to get a picture with her or Megan would've been upset," McIlvane said.

Now that he's been in PyeongChang for over a week, McIlvane has had plenty of "Welcome to the Olympics" moments, like seeing Chris Chelios in the Olympic Village cafeteria, yukking it up with Tony Granato (Team USA hockey coach) and John Shuster (U.S. curling skipper) on the bus, and taking in the awe-inspiring Opening Ceremony.

"People have asked me recently: What's my favorite part of what I'm doing so far?" McIlvane said. "This is gonna sound odd and too vague, but my favorite part is the magnitude of what's going on here. What I've been really disciplined about is being able to take in moments and enjoy the things that are happening.

"The Opening Ceremony, you're out there and you're walking around and it was an emotional experience. But you have opportunities to have moments like that and the brain switches back to competitive mode and we go right back into preparation."

Germany lost its first game in the preliminary round 5-2 to Finland Wednesday and plays again Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. ET against Sweden.

There is no matchup scheduled between Germany (Group C) and the U.S. (Group B) in PyeongChang. Both teams would have to advance beyond the preliminary round in order to face off.

But if McIlvane's two worlds were to collide in South Korea, he sees no conflict in his heart of hearts.

"When I'm watching the Olympic Games right now, every time there's an American doing anything, I'm cheering for them," McIlvane said. "We went to the biathlon the other day and a German girl (Laura Dahlmeier) from Garmisch - which is like an hour from Munich (some of the guys knew her from the area) - ended up winning gold and I was there watching it and I felt some odd patriotism for that, too.

"I will forever be an American and I am very proud to be an American but at the same time, right now, if we end up playing the U.S., I'm with Germany and there will be no confliction as far as who I'm rooting for in that game, that's for sure," McIlvane said with a laugh.

Even his friends and family back in Chicago know where their loyalties lie.

"I think we're all proud Americans, but I feel like right now, my family is rooting for Germany the next couple weeks," he said. 

"If you had asked me five years ago if I would've thought I'd be [coaching for the German team in the Olympics], I would've said, 'no way.' And all of the sudden, here we are - my son's speaking a few German words, we're calling Germany our home for most of the year.

"It's tough to plan in the life of hockey, but we're on a good path right now, for sure."

McIlvane, 32, has played or coached hockey all over the state of Illinois in his career. He attended Naperville Central High School and was selected in the 8th round of the 2004 NHL Draft - the same year the Washington Captials made Alex Ovechkin the first overall pick.

McIlvane wound up playing hockey at Ohio State instead of entering the professional ranks immediately and after college, had stops in Bloomington, Ill., and Peoria as a player. 

He retired from playing in 2011 after tearing both his ACLs and suffering several concussions throughout his career. He immediately took a job as coach of the Danville Dashers in the Federal Hockey League.

From there, McIlvane coached in Florida for a season before receiving a call from hockey coaching legend Don Jackson to join Jackson in Europe. 

McIlvane spent a year coaching for Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Hockey League before Jackson's entire coaching staff moved over to helm the Munich Red Bulls Ice Hockey Club in Germany.

He eventually hopes to return to the U.S. to coach and dreams of running a college program to develop young hockey players.

McIlvane has enjoyed instant success with the Red Bulls, who have won two titles in Germany. But a chance to particpate in the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and he is well aware.
 
"We've won back-to-back championships in Munich, so those would be neck-and-neck for me," McIlvane said. "There was so much work that went into those championships and then to get that validation of being champs at the end, that feels very, very special.

"This one kinda came up at the last minute and it's an incredible experience. I would say they're all tied for first. It's as big of a situation as I've ever been in in sports, for sure."

And what if Team Germany were to take home a medal?

"I can't even imagine," McIlvane said. "That would top everything."