Craig Anderson impressed by 'hotbed of hockey' in Chicago

Craig Anderson impressed by 'hotbed of hockey' in Chicago

LAS VEGAS – Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson was one of those kids who grew up playing hockey in the Chicago area when it wasn’t incredibly popular. To see how popular youth hockey is there now, the Park Ridge native is impressed.

“Hockey in Chicago’s grown quite a bit, Triple-A, Double-A, the last 15-20 years it’s exploded,” said Anderson of Chicago, where the NHL Draft will be held this weekend. “I’ve been able to see it first-hand when I grew up and see what it is today. I still have lots of friends who are coaching. It’s one of those things that, since [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews came in, it’s been the hotbed of hockey in the states.”

Anderson will continue to do his goalie school in the Chicago area; he said this summer he will do one in West Dundee but not at Johnny’s IceHouse. This week, however, Anderson is in Vegas as a nominee for the Masterton Trophy, given annually to the player who represents heart, perseverance and dedication.

It was a trying season for Anderson, who took several leaves of absence from the Senators this season as his wife, Nicholle, battled cancer. He came back to help the Senators reach the Eastern Conference final. Anderson said the great support he got from everyone, plus the right approached, was beneficial for him and his wife.

“It’s definitely been a year of ups and downs, being optimistic and staying positive has been the key,” Anderson said. “We’ve always looked forward and set our eye on the goal of being positive and always looking ahead.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Bryan Bickell will be honored at NHL Awards for perseverance he showed last season]

While the Senators’ playoff run ended in late May, the Andersons got great news around the same time: Nicholle announced on Twitter on May 27 that she was cancer free. Craig said Nicholle is doing well but “every day’s a little bit of a challenge.”

“She’s still trying to get her strength back," he said. "She’ll have a good day and the next day will be a low-key day where she has to rest. But for the most part, things are getting back to normal,” Anderson said. “She goes, goes goes and then she needs the rest. She can’t go the way she used to but it’s starting to come back.”

Blackhawks give thanks to Mike Gapski, who's set to celebrate 2,500th game

USA Today

Blackhawks give thanks to Mike Gapski, who's set to celebrate 2,500th game

For 33 years, Mike Gapski has been the glue of the Blackhawks' support staff. He's the longest-tenured head athletic trainer in the NHL, landing the job in 1987 shortly after graduating from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

It's been a dream come true for Gapski to work in his hometown all these years, and on Thursday he is set to be involved in his 2,500th regular season game with the Blackhawks.

Current and former players took the time to congratulate and give thanks to Gapski, and share what he's meant to the Blackhawks:

Kirby Dach:

"It's crazy, you have the same guys in junior, but it's a little bit different level here. These guys take care of us, it's unbelievable the job they do. It's a tremendous accomplishment for Gapper. Couldn't be happier for him. I've only known him for a little bit and he's a really nice guy and helps everybody out and is very kind and caring. And that's what you need in a trainer, somebody who's going to have your best interest at heart. It's good for our group and obviously he's been through a lot with some of the older guys in here. I'm sure it'll be a fun celebration for those guys and for our group as well."

Alex DeBrincat:

"He's great. He's always helping. You try to stay out of the training room, but it's always nice to go in there and talk with those guys. Gapper specifically is a great guy to have around, always fun and lighthearted around there. He obviously knows his stuff, he's been in the league a long time, he's seen a lot of injuries. He's pretty quick to help us out and know what we need to get better."

Steve Konroyd:

"Michael Gapski, congratulations on 2,500 games. You're one of the first guys I ever met when I got traded to the Chicago Blackhawks way back in 1988. You're knowledgeable, you're professional and above all else you're a great guy. I was very proud to have you as a trainer and I think the Blackhawks are very lucky to have you over all these years."

Jamal Mayers:

"Just want to say congratulations to Mike Gapski on 2,500 games. Wow. That's a lot of games, Gapper, congratulations. I know all the players that have ever had you are thankful to have you around. You're a professional, you do things the right way, you really care about the players, it comes across every single day. And thanks for keeping me together when I was 37 and 38 at the end of my career."

Eddie Olczyk:

"Hey Frank, congratulations — 2,500 games standing behind the bench for our Chicago Blackhawks. A tremendous honor, congratulations to you and your family. One thing I love about you, Frank, is you're the same guy today as you were back in the late '90s when we were working together when I was still a player. So congratulations and here's to another 2,500 more."

Patrick Sharp:

"Gapper, Gappity, Frank, Mike Gapski, thank you so much for all the years that you've put in to the Chicago Blackhawks training staff. Countless players have come through the organization, nobody's got a bad thing to say about you. 2,500 games, that's no joke. How about we do another 2,500? Congratulations on all your success. I came to Chicago in 2005 as a young man, spent my whole adult life with having you taking care of me at the rink, so thank you for everything over the years. All the best to you and your family, Frank."

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Recently retired Kris Versteeg to be honored before Blackhawks game

Recently retired Kris Versteeg to be honored before Blackhawks game

Kris Versteeg recently retired and now the Blackhawks are honoring him with the team’s “One More Shift.”

Versteeg began the season with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, but retired in November after playing six games for the IceHogs this season.

The 33-year-old wrote an emotional letter to the Blackhawks organization after requesting his contract with Rockford be terminated.

Versteeg will be honored before Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He will join the team on the ice for the national anthem and highlights of his career will be featured in the United Center.

Versteeg won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, in 2010 and 2015. He is part of the Blackhawks celebrating the 10-year anniversary of that 2010 Cup win. Brian Campbell was given the same treatment on Nov. 21.

The first 10,000 fans into the UC can get replicas of the 2010 ring.

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