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Blackhawks 1961 championship banner up for auction

Gus Cappas with his 1961 Blackhawks banner Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. |  StaciTimonere~for Sun Times Media

Gus Cappas with his 1961 Blackhawks banner at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. | Stacia Timonere~for Sun Times Media

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Updated: August 16, 2013 6:11AM



For the first 33 years of its “life,” it proudly hung from the rafters at the old Chicago Stadium.

For the next 19 years, it was prominently displayed at the Overtime Sports Bar in Northbrook, eliciting the ooohhs and aaahhs and camera flashes of many customers and fans.

Now the original 1961 Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship banner soon will have a new home.

“I want someone else to enjoy it now,” said its owner, Gus Cappas, of Mokena. “I don’t need it anymore.”

Cappas, 72, who since has retired from the restaurant and sports bar business, is putting this prized piece of sports memorabilia on the auction block Tuesday with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, in Chicago.

Bidders can register online before the 6 p.m. auction, which will be conducted live online, said Mary Kohnke, of Leslie Hindman. She expects the auction to last no more than five minutes.

It will be the first time the auctioneering company will be conducting an online auction, but the parties wanted to capitalize on the Blackhawks’ popularity, as they are fresh off another Stanley Cup championship run.

The banner has attracted a great response from all over the country, Kohnke said.

“There are Blackhawks fans everywhere,” she said.

The 12-foot-long banner will “really need a big space,” Kohnke said. “We’re sure it will find a good home and we anticipate a good price.”

The banner is in good shape, with only a few stains, but no tears or shredding, she said.

While many of today’s Blackhawks fan may be too young to remember the game when the team beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-1 to clinch the Stanley Cup 52 years ago, no one has forgotten the names of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who led that championship team.

Cappas bought the 144-inch-by-94-inch banner in 1994 when Leslie Hindman auctioned off the contents of the Chicago Stadium when it was torn down. A replica hangs in the United Center.

“I went to the auction with another guy, but I had no intention of buying anything. It’s really easy to get caught up in the action,” he said, explaining how he ended up paying $15,000 for the banner — now the opening bid for Tuesday’s auction.

Back in the 1990s, Cappas owned the Prime Minister Steakhouse and the adjacent Overtime Sports Bar in Northbrook, which were frequented by many Hawks, Bears, Cubs and Bulls players who lived in the area, he said.

“I knew the guys that won that banner,” he said.

Cappas dropped the names of many sports figures who frequented his establishments: Mikita, Bobby Orr, Jim McMahon, Rick Sutcliffe ...

“All the guys would come in. I was very lucky. They were all my customers and they became my friends,” the restaurant owner and self-proclaimed “sports nut” said.

Cappas, who was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and attended Lindblom High School, also saw stars when he met one of the city’s football greats while playing high school football.

“Dick Butkus gave me a concussion,” he said of the former Bears Hall of Famer, who then played for Chicago Vocational High School. That’s just one of many sports “souvenirs” he acquired over the years.

When the Blackhawks banner hung in his sports bar, “people would gravitate toward it,” he said.

Hull was in the bar one day and spent two hours signing autographs. Cappas said the hockey star never minded the attention, because he knew the fans made him who he was.

He has lots of such memories from his restaurant days.

“It was a great place,” he said.

“I enjoyed the banner because people enjoyed it,” he said, adding that he would loan the banner to friends on occasion. “Everyone loved it.”

Cappas acquired other unique sports items, including one of the last baseballs signed by Babe Ruth and a Walter Payton jersey.

“I gave a lot of it away,” he said.

And now, he said, it’s “the perfect time” to sell his Blackhawks banner, striking while they’re on top again, after winning another Stanley Cup and earning yet another banner.

Owning it for 19 years was “worthwhile,” he said, seeing all the joy it brought to people.

The response to the online auction site has been “unbelievable,” he said. “If I get what I paid for it, I’ll be happy.”



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