Chris Chelios played in the NHL for as long as he could.
And he did it at a high level.
“I always said I’d go right until the tank was empty,” he said. “And, I believe I did.”
Chelios and fellow defensemen Scott Niedermayer along with forward Brendan Shanahan found out Tuesday they will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.
Only Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was an older NHL player than Chelios, the only player in league history to play in at least 400 games with three different teams. His career ended with the Atlanta Thrashers during the 2009-10 season when he was 48.
“I was part of an era, Chris was part of a few,” Niedermayer joked.
Chelios, Niedermayer and Shanahan will be joined in the 2013 class by Geraldine Heaney, the third woman to be enshrined in the hall, and coach Fred Shero, who led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup in 1974 and ’75. He was selected posthumously in the builder category.
“There’s no sense looking back as to why it didn’t happen sooner, because today’s a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame,” Flyers chairman Ed Snider said.
Chelios and Niedermayer earned hockey’s biggest individual honor in their first year of eligibility, and Shanahan got in on his second shot.
New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello raved about all three players, each of whom he had a connection to during their careers.
“Scott was an integral part of our success in New Jersey, not just on the ice, but off the ice,” Lamoriello said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
“Shanahan was a part of my first draft — back in 1987 — and he went on to establish himself as one of the best, all-time power forwards in the history of the game. Chelios, who I was with in the 1996 World Cup and the Olympics, is one of the best success stories for an American hockey player.”
Shanahan was a teammate of Chelios’ in Detroit, and played with Niedermayer during the Olympics in 2002 when Canada won gold by beating Chelios and the Americans in Salt Lake City.
“When you got to play with them, it was a thrill,” Shanahan said. “I spent some years playing with Cheli, and there’s not another guy that you would want to go into a tough situation looking out for you.
“It absolutely makes it more special to go in with people I not only played against, but played with and got to know well.”
Shanahan and Niedermayer are members of what’s known as the Triple Gold Club, a group of players who have won the worlds, the Olympics and a Stanley Cup.
Each player is still working in the sport. Chelios is an adviser to hockey operations in Detroit. Niedermayer is an assistant coach in Anaheim. Shanahan is the NHL senior vice president of player safety.
Niedermayer won four Stanley Cups in 17 full NHL seasons to go along with a Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy. He played for the New Jersey Devils from 1991-92 through the 2003-04 season and finished his career in Anaheim in 2010.
Among the game’s best U.S.-born players, Chelios won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman three times.
The Chicagoan split much of his career with three storied franchises in Montreal, Chicago and Detroit and was asked which team he will be affiliated when he is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“U.S.A.,” he said.
Shanahan finished his career with 656 goals and 698 assists. He won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, an Olympic gold medal and was the quintessential scoring power winger of his era.
Shanahan started his career with the Devils, went on to play in St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit and for the New York Rangers before ending his playing career back in New Jersey.
Heaney was a defenseman on Canada’s gold-medal-winning team at the 2002 Olympics and is considered one of the best female players in history.
“As a young girl playing hockey, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be going into the hall,” she said.
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