Local doctor keeps Blackhawks healthy on the ice
Michael Terry's name appears in two places on Lord Stanley's Cup -- once for each of the Chicago Blackhawks' recent championships. It's inscribed on the same lines with team favorites such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.
But Terry has never scored a goal in the NHL. He's never even laced up his skates for one play in a professional hockey game.
As the Blackhawks' head doctor, Terry may not be on the ice himself, but his role in keeping the players healthy can be crucial to victory.
Hockey games are fast-paced and can change in an instant with injuries ranging from broken hands to bruised shoulders to sprained knees. Terry and his team of trainers and specialists are always on hand to handle it.
As the new Hawks season gets under way Tuesday, Terry, who grew up in the Northwest suburbs, is ready to take his place behind the team bench for another year.
On the night of a home game, Terry gets to the United Center a few hours before faceoff and checks in with players whose status for the night's game is questionable. After examining them, he'll make the call on whether the player is healthy enough to play and let the coaches know.
When the team plays on the road, Terry and his staff of trainers travel with the players.
Once the puck hits the ice, Terry takes his place behind the team bench and holds his breath.
"I just hope nobody gets hurt, but I'm there for them if they do," he said.
Growing up in Wheeling and Buffalo Grove, Terry said he was always a Chicago sports fan and would skate on area rinks for fun, never knowing sports would be part of his career one day.
"I've always been a fan, but after working with the Blackhawks, it's really hard not to be huge fan," Terry said. "Every single one of our players is a lot of Blackhawks, it's really hard not to be huge fan," Terry said. "Every single one of our players is a lot of fun to work with, and they're real positive guys and good people, in addition to being great hockey players."
Marian Hossa said the admiration is mutual on his part. After Hossa signed with the team in 2009, Terry operated on his left shoulder in 2010.
"I didn't know him. But I spent lots of time with him after the surgery, and the shoulder is better than before," said Hossa, 34, who has sat out much of the preseason with an upper-body injury but is expected to play Tuesday in the home opener against Washington.
"I definitely know he's one of the top surgeons in the business, and my shoulder is great. I've got closer with him, and now he's a good friend of mine. He did an excellent job."
After Terry graduated from Wheeling High School in 1990, he studied at the University of Illinois, where he first majored in mechanical engineering. His interest later turned to medicine.
Terry attended University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and did his residency at Cornell's Hospital for Special Surgery. He also did a sports medicine fellowship at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Colorado.
While training in sports medicine in New York and Colorado, he worked with high-profile sports teams, including the New York Giants, New York Jets and Denver Broncos, as well as athletes on the U.S. Ski team and U.S. Volleyball team.
He said he likes sports medicine because of his interest in surgery, which he said is still his favorite part of the job.
"I love the fact that I can deal with such a wide variety of injuries. Sometimes it's hip surgery on an older person; sometimes knee surgery on a young athlete," he said.
He was practicing at the University of Chicago when he got a call from the Blackhawks during the 2004 lockout and has been with the team ever since.
As busy as it keeps him, it's not Terry's full-time job. He is also a team physician for varsity football athletes at Northwestern University, on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he sees patients a few days a week, and an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. He lives in Wilmette with his wife and three children, who he said are all big fans of the Northwestern Wildcats and the Blackhawks.
As for dealing with the stress of treating and sometimes operating on some of Chicago's biggest sports stars, Terry said he doesn't let a player's celebrity get inside his head or his operating room, whether it's dealing with former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa's ruptured Achilles tendon or Blackhawks star Patrick Kane's wrist.
"If you start to focus on those other things, you start to lose focus on the surgery itself," he said. "Once the drape is up, it's just another shoulder or knee."
As competitors in a naturally aggressive sport, hockey players are used to playing through injuries, but they have learned to trust Terry's judgment about when they need to stay off the ice.
It's not the difficult injuries or big personalities of the athletes that is most difficult, though, Terry said. It's time management.
"There don't seem to be enough hours in the day," he said. "But it's easy to make time for the things that you really enjoy."
With Northwestern football starting the season undefeated and the Blackhawks coming off a Stanley Cup victory, Terry said there's a lot to be excited about. But as the team doctor, he said it's his job to look out for injury possibilities around every corner.
"With a shortened off-season because of the playoffs, we're going to have to keep a close eye on everybody to make sure they aren't more likely to get injured," he said. "But I'm looking forward to seeing the guys back out on the ice."
While his days are long and his job is stressful, working for the Blackhawks does have its perks.
Aside from his rinkside view of games, his family was invited to ride in the Stanley Cup parade through downtown Chicago this summer and visited the White House for a congratulatory team visit with President Barack Obama.
"It was just great fun and a pretty unbelievable experience for my kids," Terry said.
Terry has tried to share the experience with others as well, often talking to medical students about his job, bringing his parents to away games when he can, and taking the Stanley Cup to Lurie Children's Hospital to share with the patients there.
"The way this area has embraced the Hawks has been phenomenal, and the success we've had on the ice has been pretty remarkable over the past couple years," he said. "Being part of that has been a real privilege, and it's been a lot of fun."
• Daily Herald hockey writer Tim Sassone contributed to this report.