When Duluth Denfeld squares off against Eveleth-Gilbert at this year’s Hockey Day Minnesota, a husband and wife team of athletic trainers from Essentia Health will be making sure both teams are playing it safe. Newlyweds Stephanie and Mike Gogolin are part of the Essentia Health orthopedics and sports medicine team that serves high school student athletes across the Northland.
Hockey Day Minnesota at Bayfront Park takes place Saturday.
The Gogolins will be serving as athletic trainers for the first game of the day for opposing teams.
“I’ll be working with the Eveleth-Gilbert team,” says Mike Gogolin, who regularly serves as athletic trainer for the Superior Spartans. “Stephanie already serves as athletic trainer for the Denfeld Hunters, so that’s where she’ll be.” Jennie Koelling will serve as athletic trainer for Duluth East in the later game.
Mike and Stephanie met when Stephanie joined Essentia Health’s orthopedics and sports medicine team in 2006. They were married in 2015 and are expecting their first baby this July.
Essentia’s team of athletic trainers serves regional high schools from the Iron Range to Northern Wisconsin. Athletic trainers spend time with student athletes before practices and games to assess care plans to prevent injuries. They also serve on the sidelines during practices and games to treat injuries and they also work with students who get injured on recovery plans to get back in the game when they are ready.
“Seeing kids come back from an injury is definitely the most rewarding part for me,” says Stephanie. “At first, they don’t think they’ll ever be able to recover, but with hard work and dedication, they do and they are so grateful.”
Essentia donates more than $750,000 annually in orthopedics and sports medicine services in the communities it serves. This donation benefits thousands of athletes in area high schools, colleges and other organizations. The team of athletic trainers and orthopedic physicians works to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries and to return injured athletes safely to their sports.
“We’re proud of the program we’ve built,” says Mike. “It’s rewarding to be able to reassure an athlete that his or her injury is not career-ending, but something we’ll be able to manage, until they can get back in the game.”
Stephanie recalls one student who gave her a thank-you note when he graduated. Inside was a picture he had drawn of her taping up his ankle. “That was really special. It makes me happy that I can help these kids,” she says. “I wanted to be a teacher or a doctor, and then became an athletic trainer, so it’s the best of both worlds,” she adds.
The happy couple is looking forward to Saturday’s match up, as they rarely cover the same game together. They also like to bounce things off each other, having the same profession. “She’s a good ear if I have an unusual case, or a particular injury I’d like a second opinion on,” says Mike. Stephanie appreciates the fact she doesn’t have to explain every little detail to get a point across. “He knows what I do, and he gets it.”