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Which former San Diego County resident looms largest in popular music? Zappa? Waits? Jewel? A case can be made for Eddie Vedder, who went from struggling SD musician to front man of grunge monsters Pearl Jam, one of the planet’s biggest rock bands, which Vedder has helmed for almost two decades now.

There’s no debate, however, over which former San Diego County resident is all-time tops in ice hockey. Mira Mesa High School grad Chris Chelios, 47, is the oldest active player in the NHL. He’s won the Norris Trophy as top defenseman thrice over his 25 seasons there. He’s played in more NHL playoffs than any other player in history and in more games overall than any current league player and any American-born player ever. He won an NCAA championship in college and Olympic medals and world tournaments playing for Team USA. (This season, Chelios almost won his second Stanley Cup in a row and fourth overall when his Detroit Red Wings were bested by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the NHL championship series.)

And, Chelios has a “me and Eddie Vedder” story. They’re pals. During the allotted time Chelios got to lug around the Stanley Cup last summer, he even brought the trophy onstage at an Eddie Vedder solo show in Chicago.

As the defenseman explained to David Amber on ESPN.com in 2006: “[W]e grew up surfing in the same place in San Diego, and I actually knew Eddie before he was ‘Eddie Vedder the rock star.’ ” Decades had passed, as Chelios tells it, and then “one night he is out with Dennis Rodman in Chicago at a restaurant, and we’re staring at each other, and he says, ‘I know you,’ and I said, ‘What’s your name?’ He says, ‘Eddie,’ and I say, ‘I think I know you from San Diego.’ He didn’t know me as Chris Chelios the hockey player, and even at the restaurant, I didn’t realize he was Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. I am a Pearl Jam fan, but his hair was different, and I never imagined Eddie Vedder being that small. He’s probably about five foot four. So, one of the security guards comes up and says, ‘That’s Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.’ I was, like, ‘Jesus, now I remember, we worked at the gas station[s] across the street from each other.’ It was really a crazy situation how we met after all those years.”

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