While Blackhawks stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith tend to draw the attention and cheers from the fans, the hard work and effort put in behind the scenes came into focus recently, as the tragic passing of Assistant Equipment Manager Clint Reif deeply impacted the Blackhawks family.
Game in and game out, behind the bench and in the locker room, these staff members don't receive the same amount of praise—except from the players and coaching staff who appreciate their work.
Mike Gapski became the first Chicago native to act as the team's head trainer when he joined the club 28 seasons ago. Jeff Thomas has been his assistant for the past 12 years, and Pawel Prylinski has been the team's massage therapist for 22 seasons. In addition, Troy Parchman is the head equipment manager and has been with the team for 20 years, with Jeff Uyeno (18 years) and Jim Heintzelman (6 years) serving as equipment assistants. And Reif, a 34-year-old father of four, was with the team for nine seasons. Ask any hockey player how important these guys are, making sure that their skates, sticks and equipment are ready for every game, home and road.
Before 1963, each NHL team was able to dress one goalie—and sometimes even provide a potential backup for the visitors if they didn't have one. One of the Blackhawks' most well-known individuals in this category was Walter "Gunzo" Humeniuk, who came to Chicago from the Red Wings in 1955 as assistant trainer and backup goalie. He faced the likes of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Ab McDonald daily in practice, but never played in an NHL game.
Assistant trainer Moe Roberts was called into action to start the third period on Jan. 26, 1952, in Detroit, when goalie Harry Lumley couldn't play. Roberts had nine NHL games under his belt before he became a trainer with New York and Boston, and he was perfect in his lone appearance for the Blackhawks as Chicago beat the Wings for only the second time all season, winning 3-2.
The most dramatic appearance by a goalie in Stanley Cup Playoffs history came on April 5, 1938, in Toronto. While it wasn't a team trainer, minor league goalie Alfie Moore was literally pulled out of a tavern to play for the Blackhawks in the opener of the finals, since netminder Mike Karras had a broken toe. Moore shocked the favored Maple Leafs 3-1 for the only playoff victory of his career and his only game in a Blackhawk uniform, and the club went on to win their second Stanley Cup.
While not drawing as much attention from fans, the dedicated trainers and equipment men are part of the Blackhawks team that make sure the players are ready to go for every game!