Gapski has been the team's AT since 1987
In the tense moments of Game 6 against Tampa Bay in the final of the Stanley Series, Chicago fans roared their support for the Blackhawks, chanting, “We want the cup.”
“Every second seemed like a minute, every minute seemed like an hour,” said Mike Gapski, 1982 UIC alumnus and head athletic trainer for the Blackhawks. “This was tough to win, and these guys were able to overcome every challenge that they were given and met it head on.”
Gapski, an athletic trainer for UIC sports teams after completing his physical education degree, joined the Blackhawks in 1987. “I don’t look at it as a job, I look at it as a fun time,” he said. The best things about being head athletic trainer, he says, are contributing to the championship and the people he works with.
“It makes it really easy to enjoy what I do. It’s nice to make sure that the players are well taken care of and to see that some of the things I do for them are beneficial and might help them extend their careers, play better in the game and just help the team win overall.”
This is the team’s third Stanley Cup in six years. The team won the championship in 2010 and 2013. Chicago celebrated the dynasty June 17 with a parade that ended at a rally in Soldier Field. The parade started at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Racine Avenue, headed east towards Desplaines Street and ended near Michigan Avenue.
UIC students and employees cheered along the route as players took turns raising the 35-pound cup. “I feel like the win instills a lot of Chicago pride,” said Shannon Mullally, resident director for Campus Housing. “It feels good when your city wins something.”
Campus Housing resident director Jacob Hughes said he was nervous watching the final game, but the team didn’t let him down. “They had a lot more shots on goal, they were playing with more heart and they were getting to a point where they were playing more ferocious.
So I had my moments of concern, but at the end of the day, I was like ‘no, they’re going to do it all.’” Gapski says the championship’s impact was worth the hard work. “The support was amazing. The magnitude of the trophy itself is unbelievable. It makes you feel good just knowing that you’re a part of it and that you have a role in something special.” After the long-deserved win, members of the Blackhawks organization are looking forward to another tradition — their very own day with the cup.
Gapski says he doesn’t know what he’ll do yet when it’s his turn with the cup, but he’s excited. “When you get it, you want to spread the joy to as many people as you can.”