OAK BROOK – The summer of Stanley in the Chicago area is coming to an end, but wherever the NHL championship trophy goes, huge crowds are sure to follow.
It was no different Tuesday in Oak Brook when Jeff Thomas, athletic trainer with the Chicago Blackhawks, brought the Stanley Cup to Athletico, 709 Enterprise Drive. The unpublicized event was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but only a half hour into it, long lines started to form trying to get a look and photo with Lord Stanley.
“Summer has been crazy," Thomas said. "We haven't had a lot of downtime after the season, but we're getting healthy and getting ready for non-mandatory stuff coming up on the [Aug.] 26.”
Thomas joined the Blackhawks organization in 2003 after serving as an intern-assistant athletic trainer with the NBA's Atlantic Hawks during the 2002-03 season. He also served as an intern with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears.
Thomas credited Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President John McDonough for not only what they've done with the team, but also for providing everything the trainers needed from a medical standpoint to assist the players.
“One of the reasons they won is because they played for each other and played together," Thomas said.
Athletico President Mark Kaufman said he couldn't be more proud of Thomas for the job he and the rest of the training staff has done.
"Jeff is fantastic," Kaufman said. "He's the reason why we have [the Stanley Cup] here today and there's obviously a lot of excitement."
Athletico is the official physical therapy and athletic training partner of the Chicago Blackhawks and Kaufman said he himself is a big Hawks fan.
"They're a first-class organization," Kaufman said. "We were there when they struggled to get 5,000 at the UC and now we just have so much appreciation for how they've turned that organization around."