KALAMAZOO, MI- On September 7th during a Pearl Jam Concert at the United Center, Chris Chelios was surprised by lead singer of Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, who broke the news that he was going to have his number 7 retired by the Blackhawks in February.
While this is an amazing accomplishment for Chelios and a well deserved accolade, there’s been one issue about his jersey retirement that has had Blackhawks fans disgruntled. Brent Seabrook, a key player for the hawks during all three Stanley Cups in the 2010’s, also wore number 7.
Before diving into who deserves this honor more, it is imperative that the public knows that Brent Seabrook is currently ineligible to have his number retired under the Blackhawks requirements to have a retired number. The requirements are as followed:
- Player must be retired for at least three years, which doesn't include long-term injured reserve
- Minimum of eight years and 500 games played with the Blackhawks for skaters; 400 games played with the team for goaltenders
- Hockey Hall of Famer or has played at least 1,000 games (700 for a goaltender)
- Played more games with the Blackhawks than any other team during NHL career
- Among the most prolific Blackhawks at his position, as evidenced by on-ice performance, All-Star selections and major NHL Awards
- Exhibited (and continues to exhibit) strong off-ice character
- Changed the game of hockey
- Additional consideration will be given to members of the Stanley Cup winning teams with the Blackhawks, along with the entire body of work by a player to the organization, which includes time as a broadcaster and ambassador
Seabrook does meet some criteria like 500 games with Chicago, played more games with the hawks than any other team, and was one of the most prolific Blackhawks at his position.
But one of the main reasons why he is ineligible at the moment is because he is still under contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. So once that contract ends next year he can start his journey of becoming a retired Blackhawk.
Now that that’s cleared out of the way, let’s get into the debate of who the REAL number 7 is in Chicago.
Starting with Chicago born Chris Chelios, his success in the 90s was second to none totaling 487 points in 664 games, winning two norris trophies (best defenseman of the year), and being selected to 9 all star games as a Blackhawk.
He was also a clutch playoff performer for Chicago as he totaled 48 points in 65 playoff games for the Hawks.
As far as how he changed the game of hockey, he was one of the few defensemen in the 80s/90s that changed how defensemen played the game.
The stereotype for defensemen back in the day was they didn’t score a lot, they weren’t the best skater, and their main job was to play a gritty, hardnose style of defensive hockey.
He helped change this stereotype through his agile and fast skating and high offensive IQ. While he was still a good defender, he consistently proved that defensemen can play both sides of the ice.
While he never won a cup in Chicago, Chris Chelios is still widely considered as a top 10 player in Blackhawks history and a great captain for this franchise. He is well deserved to have his number retired by the Blackhawks.
Brent Seabrook was a first round pick by the Blackhawks in 2004 and he didn’t disappoint. After 15 years with the hawks he totaled 1,114 games, 103 goals and 361 assists for 464 points, 4 all star game appearances,1 gold medal, and 3 Stanley Cups.
In the Blackhawks franchise, Seabrook is 4th in games played, 10th in total goals on-ice for, 2nd in defensive point shares, and 10th in point shares.
*See link below for point share definition*
Brent Seabrook was also a great leader both on and off the ice. He dawned the assistant captain role from 2015-2020 and was known by his teammates as a guy they could turn to for guidance.
As far as his off-ice contributions, he always gave back to the city of Chicago whenever he could.
For example, on June 15th of 2020, Seabrook donated 200 chromebooks to Chicago Public Schools instead of the schools having to pay for the chromebooks themselves.
Seabrook and his family also started a charity bowling event called the “Celebrity ICE Bowl” to help the Inner City Education program in Chicago. The charity ran from 2008-2019 and it helped children from underprivileged Chicago communities achieve their potential by providing educational opportunities and hockey that would otherwise be unattainable for them.
As far as retiring his jersey goes, it is very likely that once Seabrook’s contract is up with Tampa and he’s been officially retired for a couple of years that he will join Chris Chelios in the rafters at the United Center.
All in all, there’s a lot that can be said about who the real number 7 is for the Blackhawks and who should have the privilege of having that number retired.
Having a number retired in professional sports is a big deal. It’s how as a fan base we say thank you to the players that brought us championships and memories we will never forget.
We say thank you to these players by glorifying their numbers on huge banners that hang from the ceiling of arenas so we can always remember the good times we had with them.
So, who’s the real number 7? Some say Chelios, some say Seabrook. Seabrook was a key factor in all 3 of Chicago’s cups in the 2010s but you can’t overlook how dominant Chelios was for the Blackhawks either.
Who's to say they both can't be the Blackhawks' number 7 for eternity? These are two extremely talented players who gave their blood, sweat, tears, and time to the Blackhawks organization throughout their long tenured careers.
It would be a poetic ending if they got to share the number 7 high up in the rafters at the United Center. Only a couple other franchises have had two players retired under one number (Portland Trailblazers #30: Bob Gross and Terry Porter, New York Knicks #15: Dick McGuire and Earl Monroe) and how cool would it be if the Blackhawks joined those famous franchises in retiring two players under that historic number 7.