Ring of Fire
The “Ring of Fire” tribute began in 2003 in an effort to honor members of the Chicago Fire who have made the team a successful organization and who displayed the qualities the club embodies: leadership, dedication and integrity. The Fire’s unique Hall of Fame – the first created by a Major League Soccer club – began in 2003, when Fire midfielder and captain Peter Nowak became the inaugural member. The Chicago Fire, in consultation with the current “Ring of Fire” members, select the next honoree
Nowak chose a hometown hero into the select group in 2004 by nominating Fire forward and Chicago native Frank Klopas. Former Fire defender Lubos Kubik was bestowed the honor in 2005, while in 2006 the award went full circle with the induction of Wilt into the “Ring of Fire.” In 2007, former head coach Bob Bradley was selected to join former Fire alumni in recognition for being the club's winningest coach of all time. In 2009, the Fire inducted MLS Original, 1998 MLS Cup Winner and seven-time MLS All-Star Chris Armas into the “Ring of Fire”. In 2012, the Fire inducted the club's longest tenured player and winner of six domestic champions C.J. Brown.
In honor of each inductee, a banner with each member’s name is emblazoned upon a large, jersey-style banner displayed on the east side of TOYOTA PARK.
Inductee: Peter Nowak
As the Fire’s first-ever international player signing in December of 1997, big things were expected from Nowak, the fiery ex-captain of the Polish National Team and veteran of the German Bundesliga. Nowak exceeded all expectations in the club’s inaugural season of 1998, leading by example with his intelligent and gritty play and natural leadership abilities. Nowak capped his incredible first season with the club by earning MVP honors in the Fire’s 1998 MLS Cup victory and just days later capturing the “double” with a win over the Columbus Crew in the 1998 U.S. Open Cup. Nowak also led the Fire to another Open Cup title in 2000 before retiring in 2002.
INDUCTED: June 28, 2003 at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville, IL
Inductee: Frank Klopas
Klopas was signed by the Fire in 1998 and given a chance to end his professional career where it began – in his hometown. “Kid” Klopas played 40 games and scored 17 points on six goals and five assists for the “Men in Red” during the 1998 and 1999 seasons. Klopas ended the Fire’s inaugural season in dramatic fashion with what still ranks as one of the club’s most memorable moments on October 30, 1998, as his “golden goal” in overtime gave Chicago a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in front of a rabid hometown crowd at Soldier Field.
INDUCTED: June 5, 2004 at Cardinal Stadium - Naperville, IL
Inductee: Lubos Kubik
After success in some of Europe’s top leagues and internationally for his native Czechoslovakia, Kubik brought his skills to the Fire when he was signed on February 19, 1998. The Czech’s steady presence on the ball, lethal left foot and world-class marking ability made him an instant leader and one of the most skillful players to ever take the field in Major League Soccer. Kubik’s remarkable 1998 season ended with the defender receiving several accolades, including the 1998 Fire Defender of the Year and 1998 BIC MLS Tough Defender of the Year awards and a spot on the 1998 MLS Best XI Team.
INDUCTED: August 6, 2005 at Soldier Field - Chicago, IL
Inductee: Peter Wilt
Peter Wilt was the founding general manager and long time president of the Chicago Fire who set the standard for expansion franchises on and off the field in 1998. Under Wilt, the Fire earned a spot in seven domestic Cup Finals in the clubs first eight seasons. The Fire captured four championships (MLS Cup in 1998 and the U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000 and 2003), three division titles (2000, 2001 and 2003) and the Supporters Shield in 2003 during his tenure. Wilt guided the organization throughmoves from Soldier Field to Cardinal Stadium in Naperville and back to the renovated Soldier Field. He also led efforts to develop and design TOYOTA PARK in Bridgeview, Illinois, the first 100% publicly funded soccer stadium in Major League Soccer.
INDUCTED: July 22, 2006 at TOYOTA PARK - Bridgeview, IL
Inductee: Bob Bradley
Bradley patrolled the Fire sideline from the team’s inaugural season in 1998 until 2002, posting an impressive record of 82-54-15 during the club’s first five years. The former Fire boss also led the “Men in Red” to three championship victories in that time: the 1998 MLS Cup and the 1998 and 2000 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups. With Bradley at the helm, Chicago also finished atop the Central Division in the 2000 and 2001 campaigns. While with the Fire, Bradley’s 82 victories made him the winningest coach in MLS history, a title he still holds today with 124 MLS career wins overall through nine seasons, including stints with the MetroStars (2003-2005) and Chivas USA (2006).
INDUCTED: August 4 2007, at TOYOTA PARK - Bridgeview, IL
Inductee: Chris Armas
After playing two seasons with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996 and 1997, the Adelphi University alum was acquired by the Chicago Fire prior to the team’s inaugural 1998 season. During his first season with the Fire, he helped the MLS expansion side win both the 1998 MLS Cup and the 1998 U.S. Open Cup to capture the coveted “Domestic Double”. Through the next nine seasons as a player in Chicago, Armas led the Fire to three more U.S. Open Cup Championships (2000, 2003, 2006) and helped the Fire reach the MLS Cup Finals in 2000 and 2003. The seven-time MLS All-Star finished his decorated playing career in 2007 having tallied 12 goals and 48 assists through 214 games. Armas ranks in the top 5 on the Fire’s all-time list with 42 assists (2nd), 13 game-winning assists (2nd), 19,018 minutes played (3rd), 214 games played (3rd), and 212 games started (2nd). In 2008, Armas joined the Chicago Fire coaching staff as an assistant coach under Denis Hamlett, helping the Fire reach the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals.
INDUCTED: October 22, 2009 at TOYOTA PARK - Bridgeview, IL
Inductee: C.J. Brown
The longest-serving member of the Chicago Fire, defender C.J. Brown won over the hearts of the club’s supporters through his grit, hard work and dedication to always playing for the badge during his 13 seasons in the Windy City. The club’s all-time leader in competitive (372), MLS regular season (296), MLS Cup playoff (35) and U.S. Open Cup (26) appearances, Brown retired in 2010 as the last remaining “Fire Original” from the inaugural 1998 double-winning side. Captain of the Fire from 2008-09, Brown joins fellow Ring member Chris Armas and goalkeeper Zach Thornton as the only three players to be part of all six of the club’s domestic titles.
INDUCTED: May 9, 2012 at TOYOTA PARK in Bridgeview, IL