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Caley Chelios' NHL broadcasting career 'kick-started' by father Chris' advice

Mark Falkner
The Detroit News

Caley Chelios doesn't consider herself a trailblazer in the male-dominated world of broadcasting in the National Hockey League.

The daughter of former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios and the color analyst on the radio broadcasts for road games of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Chelios says women like Christine Simpson, Cassie Campbell, A.J. Mleczko and Kathryn Tappen paved the way for female hockey announcers.

Caley Chelios

"Kathryn inspired me on her NBC games but my dad kick-started my career," said the 26-year-old Chelios, who was born in Chicago but moved to Detroit in 1999 when her father was traded to the Red Wings from the Blackhawks. "I wanted to do what she did. He gave me the extra push and encouraged me to really work hard."

Chelios remembers watching her dad playing at Joe Louis Arena, staying up late to listen to road games in the Stanley Cup playoffs and going to her brother's games in East Lansing to watch Jake and Dean play at Michigan State. 

"Having a dad who had such an esteemed NHL career guide me (three Stanley Cups, three Norris Trophies, Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013) and then watching my brothers play AA through college and professional hockey helped shape my individual style, what I look for on the ice, how I see the game," Chelios said.

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"I run so much by my dad, the good, the bad and the ugly. He's he's not afraid to be honest and offer constructive criticism. My mom is amazing too. She's not Mrs. Hockey but she's extremely smart, so supportive and helps with every little detail."

After majoring in communications and earning a master's degree in journalism as well as winning an NCAA lacrosse championship at Northwestern University, Chelios moved to Tampa Bay to be a reporter with the Lightning in addition to her color commentary duties on the radio and becoming a fixture on the NHL Network.

"She's really good at what she does," Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said. "I remember seeing her on TV for the first time while I was in my office. Her commentary was smart and insightful. And it's not like she played in the NHL or college hockey. She just has a good feel and mind for the game."

Chelios says she has "quite a ways to go" to be mentioned in the same breathe as her female role models and credits play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin for "pushing me to dive a little deeper" and examine the game at different levels.

"To be honest, I wasn't sure what my career path was going to be," Chelios said. "I loved playing sports. It gave me structure, everything, all the tools I ended up needing in life. My dad set that example for all of us to follow. I have three siblings (Tara also played lacrosse in the Detroit area and at Northwestern) and we've been fortunate to have a dad who has been so unselfish and supportive of his family."

Caley Chelios will be busy this weekend reporting from the game-day skate and the Red Wings-Lightning game in Tampa Bay on Sunday and keeping an eye on the Lions-Packers game at Ford Field. Her husband is Green Bay fullback Danny Vitale, who was named to the Pro Bowl along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It's been a whirlwind and a busy summer since we got married," said Chelios, who is pregnant and expecting their first child in April. "It's not easy being apart with the hockey and football seasons going on at the same time and it's not easy flying out of Green Bay, but we make it work. I'm so proud of his success. All of his hard work is paying off."