So far this summer, Chicago Blackhawks players and staff have hoisted the Stanley Cup all over North America. Wednesday, one of the team's longest-serving employees took the opportunity to bring the Cup back to Chicago.
Blackhawks head athletic trainer and Chicago native Mike Gapski brought the Cup to the suburb of Crestwood, Ill., giving several local fans the chance to see the most iconic trophy in all of sports.
A long day with the Cup started early in the morning at Incarnation Catholic Parish, where Gapski is a parishioner. Gapski, entering his 26th season with the team, brought the Cup to the church when the Blackhawks won it in 2010, and fans started camping outside the building at dawn for a chance to see the trophy this time around. After a morning spent at the church, the scene shifted to a much larger meet-and-greet.
With a marching band playing the team's goal song, "Chelsea Dagger," Gapski carried the Cup into an event at Caesar Park that reportedly drew close to 1,000 people. With some fans having camped out up to seven hours prior to the start of the event, it was a unique opportunity for Chicago-area Blackhawks fans to pose for photographs with the Cup.
After three hours at Caesar Park, the Cup was scheduled to be the guest of honor at an evening party at a local restaurant. All proceeds from the event went to Blackhawks charities and gave fans another unique opportunity to see the Cup up close. But in between the park and the party, Gapski was treated to an unexpected surprise.
What originally was planned as a short visit to a neighbor's home in Crestwood turned out to be a surprise party attended by roughly 60 friends and neighbors who came out to congratulate Gapski on his second Cup victory in four seasons. It came as a complete surprise to Gapski, who was initially asked to come by the home to visit a neighborhood girl who had injured her ankle playing volleyball.
All in all, a pleasant surprise that was a quarter-century in the making for the Blackhawks trainer.