Clad in his old No. 7 Blackhawks jersey and a full-on parachuting jumpsuit, Chris Chelios inched toward the open door of a U.S. Army Dash 8 soaring 7,500 feet above Chicago. “What have a gotten myself into?” he muttered.
The three-time Stanley Cup champ was preparing to dive out over North Avenue Beach with the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army's 60-year-old parachute team, to kick off the annual Chicago Air and Water Show. No different than hopping out over the boards during a line change, right?
“Well," said the grinning defenseman, "if you fall going over the boards you’re going to be okay.”
Still, Chelios was preparing to take the plunge with arguably the best parachute team in the world. A native of the Chicago area who played with the Hawks from 1990 to 1999, Chelios said he considered appearing in the Air and Water Show a once in-a-lifetime opportunity — one he'd learned about at a golf outing hosted by another Chicago Hall of Famer.
“I was at Dick Butkus’s charity golf tournament a few weeks ago and just started talking to [an Army sergeant]. He asked if I ever parachuted, I told him no, and [he] asked if I’d be interested. After a couple drinks I couldn’t say no. It’s my hometown, it’s the Air and Water Show, it’s the Golden Knights, the best in the world.”
In the end, Chelios stuck the jump like a champ, landing with Sergeant First Class Noah Watts on North Avenue Beach.
His first words to Watts once his feet were planted back on the ground? “I love this man."