Blackhawks trainer gets a surprise
BY Bob Rakow Correspondent June 27, 2013 10:30PM
Chicago Blackhawks trainer Mike Gapski talks with his friend Mike Volpentesta on Thursday, June 28, 2013, during a surprise party at Volpentesta's house in Crestwood, Ill. | Bob Rakow~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 30, 2013 8:44AM
Chicago Blackhawks head trainer Mike Gapski was asked to visit a neighbor’s house in Crestwood on Thursday night to examine the sprained ankle of a girl who was injured playing volleyball.
But when he walked into the back yard, he got a surprise — being greeted by about 60 friends and neighbors who turned out to congratulate him on the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship.
“I was surprised,” said Gapski, the team’s head trainer for 25 years.
His friends and family shouted, “Congratulations” as they surrounded a banner that featured a photo of the team surrounding the Stanley Cup.
Gapski said he had no idea that his friend, Mike Volpentesta, had organized the party.
“He sold it pretty good,” Gapski said of the injured girl cover story.
He said he was touched by the party, adding that “it feels kind of nice to have the support of friends.”
Volpentesta also told Gapski that he had a large group of people at his house playing volleyball as an excuse for all the cars lining the block.
He said the party was designed to celebrate both Gapski’s role with the team and to thank him for being a good neighbor and friend.
“We’re fortunate to have such a good friend in Mike,” Volpentesta said. “He’s just a genuine friend.”
He said he decided to host the party shortly after the Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four years.
“I stated calling all the neighbors,” Volpentesta said, adding that the most difficult part was visiting every neighbor to get them to sign a card for Gapski without him noticing.
Family friend Tom Spizzirri said Gapski deserved the reception.
“When you know somebody like that, you’re just so proud for him,” Spizzirri said. “This is kind of our little group. It was a great way to pay tribute to someone. It’s just to honor a good guy.”
Several neighbors got a chance to see the Stanley Cup in 2010 when the Blackhawks captured it and Gapski got his turn to show off the famous trophy.
“It was sitting on the kitchen table,” Gapski’s son, Steven, said.