Born in Chicago and relocated to Metro Detroit in 1999 when her father and Hall of Fame hockey player Chris Chelios was acquired by the Detroit Red Wings, Cranbrook Kingswood graduate Caley Chelios said she secretly cheers for one of her favorite hockey legends when she returns to the Motor City to cover the Tampa Bay Lightning.
No, it's not dad.
"I secretly cheer for Steve Yzerman," said Chelios, who now works as a color analyst for the Lightning. "It's always fun going back to Detroit where I have a lot of friendships with players and families."
While Yzerman, now back in Detroit as the Red Wings general manager after serving in the same role for Tampa Bay, is a safe favorite for Tampa Bay and Detroit fans, it's her father's influence that helped shape Chelios' career after graduating from Cranbrook.
"I didn't know until I was in college what path to take," Chelios said. "I was talking with Dad about the different possibilities, and he got me into wanting to do TV and to do broadcast. I was offered a job in finance after school, but instead went to graduate school."
As a student at Cranbrook, Chelios played lacrosse, hockey and volleyball, and then won a NCAA lacrosse championship at Northwestern University, where she also earned her master's degree in journalism. She started working for the Tampa Bay Lightning as a digital reporter in 2016, after finishing school.
"My focus was engaging and interacting with players for features and specials, and interviewing players for pregame and postgame segments," Chelios said. "Color commentary is a change because you're calling the game live in the moment. It requires you to be on the fly live and to be able to conduct thought-provoking analysis on play-by-play."
The subject may be second nature to Chelios, considering both her student experiences as a player, as well as lifelong familiarity with professional athletes, yet Chelios is still delighted to have received mountains of positive feedback from players and other professionals. An added benefit is that she's joined by veteran radio personality Dave Mishkin, and fills in and sometimes works with hockey legend and Lightning founder Phil Esposito.
"I've gotten a ton of support," she said. "I'm very appreciative of the women before me who have taken it upon themselves to fill these roles, especially in game roles. My generation especially has an opportunity to come in. I never felt there was a bias. For the most part, working primarily with males hasn't been a factor because I haven't been treated any differently."
Outside of work, life has been a whirlwind for Chelios, who is expecting her first child with husband and Green Bay Packers fullback, Danny Vitale. Married in June in Chicago, the couple's guest list included a wide range of celebrities, such as Eddie Vedder, Cindy Crawford, John Cusack and Kid Rock.
"Danny has a massive family, and it was a huge wedding with some entertaining guests," Chelios said. "We weren't expecting to have a baby, necessarily, but with moving around to different houses, even in Michigan, I'm used to some chaos. Danny lives with me in the off season in Tampa. I spend the whole year pretty much in Tampa, and vacation in the off season."
As for returning to Detroit, Chelios said she usually gets time to visit around the holidays or when the Lightning play the Red Wings.
"Its nice to be home," she said. "My friends are moving back and buying homes. I loved growing up where I did."
Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski