Gino Cavallini is the older half of the Cavallini brothers who stole the hearts of Blues fans during the late 1980s. Known locally as "The Tank," Cavallini's hockey success started before making it to the League when he scored the game-winning goal that won Bowling Green State University an NCAA title in 1984.
The winger was traded to St. Louis in 1986 after just more than a season with the Calgary Flames, and would later become an alternate captain of the club. "The Tank" racked up 211 regular season points for the Blues - and most excitingly, he was involved in more than 45 fights over his nine NHL seasons.
We caught up with Cavallini from his Chicago home to find out how it felt to hit the professional ice with his younger brother and how he still stays involved with the game.
BLUES: A lot of players only dream of the opportunity to play in the League with their brother. What was it like to play on the same team with Paul?
CAVALLINI: It was fun! I mean, two first generation kids ended up playing professional hockey… I think it was an even bigger thrill for our mom and dad. We weren't able to play with each other until we were older, so it was fun for all of us. No question.
BLUES: Do you remember getting the call that he was traded to St. Louis?
CAVALLINI: It was kind of funny, because back then there was no cell phone. Paul called me earlier in the day and said they were going to send him to the international league, so he slammed the door on the way out and said he quit. At 6 o'clock, he called me back and said "I guess it worked, because I need you to pick me up at 9 o'clock at the St. Louis Airport!" So that was a lot of fun.
BLUES: How much are you looking forward to getting back on the ice together for the Winter Classic Alumni Game?
CAVALLINI: To see all the guys will be a lot of fun. We're a lot older…we can't do what we used to do. We can't skate as fast. I skate here with a group of guys in Chicago, and my brain tells me to do something, but my body's just a little slow reacting to it right now. It's still fun though… I've been working out a lot to stay in shape for it.
BLUES: What's your favorite memory from your time in St. Louis?
CAVALLINI: A lot of what I remember is the fans that were around at the time…they were great. People still recognize me in St. Louis. But game-wise, probably the Monday Night Miracle against Calgary when we came back to force a Game 7 in the Conference Final. There are certain things you remember, and I don't think many of us could forget that night.
BLUES: The prominence of youth hockey in St. Louis has grown exponentially over the last several years. What is your involvement with youth hockey in Chicago?
CAVALLINI: My partner and I run a not-for-profit youth hockey organization in Chicago called Chicago Mission. It's been around for about 15 years, and since I've come back we've moved a lot of kids on to college. This year, three of our players are in the lineup for the Blackhawks, so we're pretty proud of what we do. Without bragging, I'd say we're one of the top programs in the country.
BLUES: What has the transition been like from playing the game to directing a hockey organization?
CAVALLINI: I enjoy what I do. I'm able to give back and develop these kids… it's rewarding watching them get the call from junior hockey and college, and ultimately turn pro. Seven kids I've coached after the last 10 years are playing professional hockey right now, so it's fun. I'm pretty fortunate to be able to do what I do now.
BLUES: What else are you up to these days?
CAVALLINI: My oldest son plays for the Wisconsin Badgers, so I follow him. He's a senior. My youngest son plays junior hockey in Canada too. What I do is 365 days a year… this is my hobby, my passion and my livelihood. I enjoy every minute of it!