The Agony of Success


While pro athletes seem invincible, we can’t forget that they (and others who work in the sports world) have to push through tough times at work just like anyone else.

This past weekend, I attended the 6th Annual Chicago Blackhawks Convention at the Hilton (720 South Michigan Avenue). It was my fifth convention, and I always enjoy going – not always for autographs and photos, but for the Q&A sessions where the players, staff and broadcast crew get a little personal with us fans.

In a few of these panel sessions we learned a bit about the ‘hardships’ people involved with the NHL go through…especially during the playoffs and well after the season ends.

It all started in the Q&A session titled “Tales from the Cup Keepers.” The panelists were the men who keep a watchful eye on the Stanley Cup as it tours the champs’ hometowns every summer. And they love every minute of their jobs. Most recognizable is Phil Pritchard, curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame, followed by Mike Bolt, Howie Borrow and Walter Neubrand. And here’s just some of what they’ve gone through…

Mike Bolt discussed the time when he accompanied the Cup to Afghanistan to boost the morale of our soldiers overseas. An air horn went off, soldiers left the barracks and Mr. Bolt was left sitting on the Cup case reading a magazine. He stayed there a while, showered, came back and continued to sit on the Cup case, guarding it per his usual work routine.

The soldiers returned and, to their surprise, the ‘Cup Keeper’ was in the same place…sitting on the Cup case. One soldier walked up to Mr. Bolt and said, “Wow, you are dedicated to your job.” Confused, Mr. Bolt asked what he meant. He then learned there was a missile attack on the barracks, and he spent the whole time ‘guarding the Cup.’

And Phil Pritchard? The only sleep he often gets (all summer long) is on the plane rides to different parts of the U.S. and Europe as he takes the Cup to various players’ hometowns…everywhere from right here in Chicago to Minnesota to Russia to Finland and beyond. “I’ve earned these bags under my eyes,” he explained at the Hawks convention.

Switch to the other panel discussions, which included players like Left Winger Bryan ‘Bicks’ Bickell and Center Michal ‘Zeus’ Handzus. Bicks played through a Grade 2 knee sprain and a torn tendon/cyst in his thumb, while Zeus was suffering from torn cartilage in his wrist and a torn MCL in his leg. Yet, the two played through the Stanley Cup Finals and gave it their all to contribute to the Hawks’ second Stanley Cup Championship in four years. Bicks even scored the tying goal in the Cup clincher.

And while this isn’t directly Blackhawks related, it’s worth noting that Boston Bruins’ Center Patrice Bergeron played through the same game with torn rib cartilage, a broken rib, a separated right shoulder and a punctured lung.

Point is, even pro athletes (and ‘curators’) work through tough times. Inspiring, no?


Photo Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks Facebook


About Carrie Williams

Carrie Williams is TCW's managing/digital editor. She manages day-to-day editorial operations of the monthly print publication, website and social media outlets, contributes to a variety of feature articles and directs a team of interns, freelance writers and bloggers. In early 2013, she led the redesign of of TCW's brand strategy. Her blog, "Carrie On," is a blog of reflection and discovery, discussing how to push through life when you’re handed one too many curveballs. And finally, Ms. Williams is also executive director of the TCW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting underfunded women's and children's organizations.