America's oldest pro athletes

Andrew Farrell

Defenseman Chris Chelios hopes to suit up for his Detroit Red Wings next week, 10 weeks after the veteran hockey player suffered a broken tibia while blocking a shot in the preseason.

When his skates hit the ice, Chelios will be worth watching not just because he's an 11-time All Star or has won the Stanley Cup three times. Keep your eye on Chelios because, at 46, he's the oldest professional player in any major American sports league.

He first took the ice as a pro on March 8, 1984, before three of his teammates on the Red Wings roster were even born. "I always said I'd play until I didn't feel good. Well, I still feel good," he once told a reporter.

After 25 bruising NHL seasons, that's a remarkable feat. Of the 10 oldest players on U.S. men's pro-team sports in 2008, just two are from hockey. Six are from Major League Baseball, and two are from the National Football League. No players from the National Basketball Association or Major League Soccer make the list.

The only other hockey player is Gary Roberts, the 42-year-old left winger for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Roberts actually retired from hockey in 1996 because of neck injuries. It didn't stick. He was back on the ice in 1997 and has been there ever since.

The two football players on the list are on the same team. Every time the New York Giants line up for a field goal, they're counting on the two oldest men on the field. Jeff Feagles, the 42-year-old punter, holds the kicks, and 44-year old John Carney tries to put them through the uprights.

So far this season, Carney's doing it consistently. He's kicked 27 field goals in 28 attempts. When Carney walked on to the Notre Dame football team over two decades ago, he never expected a 20-year professional career. "I was just hoping to get a couple of years in," he says.

But the players with the best chances for a long career in pro sports are, surprisingly, baseball pitchers. The list includes six who took the mound for a Major League Baseball team in 2008.

The Philadelphia Phillies' Jamie Moyer, 46, is the eldest. He helped his team win the World Series this year. The lefthander compiled a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA during the regular season for the Phillies. In the championship, Moyer pitched well in his only start. Despite a stomach virus, he lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs in a game the Phillies won.

When Moyer paraded down Philadelphia's Broad Street with the rest of his team to celebrate the championship, he might have experienced some deja vu. The Pennsylvania native cut school in 1980 to watch the Phillies' last World Series parade.

Moyer filed for free agency this offseason but could be back for another season in Philly. "I hope I'm back here," he said after the parade. "I sense there's a good feeling that I may come back here. I have not talked to the club at all, but we'll see what happens." He seems to have time on his side.

The top five:

1. Chris Chelios: Slideshow
2. Jamie Moyer: Slideshow
3. Randy Johnson: Slideshow
4. John Carney: Slideshow
5. Kenny Rogers: Slideshow
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America's oldest pro athletes

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