LAS VEGAS -- Chris Chelios calls his role with the Detroit Red Wings an internship.
"Basically, I'm learning how to coach," Chelios told NHL.com Tuesday from the 11th annual Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp.
Chelios, who turned 51 last week, works primarily with the defensemen for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate. His title is Advisor to Hockey Operations, but he sees himself as an on-ice coach, a helping hand to first-year coach Jeff Blashill.
"I spend three or four days a week there, go on the ice with them, work with the young defensemen," Chelios said. "It's been great. I'm really enjoying it.
"It's one thing to play and it's another to get behind the bench and coach. There's a lot to it. It's been a great experience for me."
Chelios has been working for the Red Wings since he officially retired from the National Hockey League on Aug. 31, 2010. He spent the 2010-11 season mentoring under general manager Ken Holland and assistant general manager Jim Nill, but quickly learned he didn't belong in the front office.
"It's way more fun to be on the ice as opposed to being upstairs having to make decisions on guys' careers," Chelios said. "If you're not playing, I think the next best thing is coaching, being down on the ice, traveling with the guys."
The travel associated with professional hockey and the fact that his own kids, Dean and Jake, are still playing for Michigan State are the two factors keeping Chelios from coaching full time.
He doesn't know if or when that will happen.
"It's going to depend on my sons, who are graduating next year," Chelios said. "If they happen to be good enough to make it to the minors I may consider helping them out as an assistant coach where they go. My youngest son [Jake], this is his first year on defense, so I'd like to work with him. If I'm going to get on a bus or travel, it's going to be with them."
For now, Chelios scratches his itch and gets his competitive juices flowing working with the Griffins.
"That's a blast," he said. "You get to actually be part of a team again and wanting to win. You play a hand in it. You watch these kids develop and it's great. I see two guys now playing for the Wings, [Brian] Lashoff and Brendan Smith, and I had been working with them for the past two years. You get a lot of satisfaction bringing those guys along."
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