With his first shift, Chelios became the second-oldest player, at 45 years, 348 days, to appear in an NHL game, leapfrogging Moe Roberts and chasing only Wings Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, who hung up his skates for good at 52.
"It was fantastic," said 42-year-old Dominik Hasek, who stretched his shutout streak to 134:13 minutes in his 79th career shutout. "I'm glad he's with me, because anytime anybody ask me about my age, I always point to him. He is inspiration for me.
"I can see the fire in him every day, on the ice and off the ice. He wants to play every game; he wants to play more. The fire is in his eyes."
Chelios received a standing ovation when his accomplishment was announced over the loudspeakers during the first period right before a face-off, raising his stick in acknowledgement.
"It's kind of neat, I guess," Chelios said. "I never thought I would be in that position. I guess it says a lot about my longevity, and I'm lucky enough to stay with the same team now for eight years to accomplish it."
Neither Chelios nor the Wings had any idea their relationship would last this long when Chelios was acquired via trade March 23, 1999. But Chelios made it happen, extending his career by exercising rigorously and accepting that he would have to transform into a defensive defenseman.
His desire to work more always comes through, though, with frequent jabs at the coaching staff to put him on the power play; Chelios said the time to worry is when he stops pushing for more.
The power-play minutes are spoken for for a reason, of course. Tuesday night, the Wings got back Tomas Holmstrom after an eight-game injury layoff, and Holmstrom showed why he's so valuable late in the second period when he one-handed a pass behind his back that Pavel Datsyuk roofed into the right corner.
The best first-period highlight came with just more than three minutes to play, when Chelios nearly got into a fight. Players were scrambling outside the Wings' crease when Cody McCormick cross-checked Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, about as big a no-no as there is on the team. Chelios went after McCormick, but the skirmish ended without punches and with penalties for both.
"That's the kind of player he is," Lidstrom said of Chelios. "He's competitive, and I thought he played another solid game. It's great for him to be second-oldest in the NHL -- it's quite amazing when you think of it."
Chelios, who pledged he wouldn't surpass Howe's record, takes grief for his age around the NHL, but as one teammate pointed out, that's quite a tribute.
"I always like it when fans yell at him that he should retire," Chris Osgood said. "It's really not ripping him; it's giving him a compliment for being able to play for so long."