Catching up with Dr. Michael Terry, Gamma Zeta ’94 – Head Team Physician for the Chicago Blackhawks

TerryTalk about a Gamma Zeta ATO through and through, listen to this resume…

  • Pledged during informal rush first semester of freshman year
  • Moved into the house second semester freshman year and lived in the house through graduation
  • Served terms as Social Chairman, Rush Chairman and as a Senior was President of the Senior Advisory Committee, a small group of seniors who served as mentors to the younger members of the fraternity, particularly focused on redirecting some hazing practices that had gotten out of hand
  • Was awarded the prestigious Thomas Arkle Clark Award as a Senior as the top Senior ATO in the country
  • Met his wife Lynn through an ATO brother
  • Introduced his sister to brother Doug Ausnehmer and they later married
  • Nearly 20 years after graduation, still counts among his best friends, guys he lived in the ATO house with such as Doug, Dan Tarpey, Quinton Bailey, Matt Menna and Jay Nuttal to name a few
  • Describes his ATO experience as “fantastic” and the guys in the house at the time then and now a “strong and tight group”

Today, Dr. Terry is associate professor in orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He has been a member of the Feinberg faculty since 2009. Terry also acts an assistant team physician for Northwestern Athletics, team physician for the U.S. Olympic volleyball and U.S. ski teams, AND serves as head team physician for the STANLEY CUP WINNING Chicago Blackhawks!! He does admit to being one of the busiest docs on Northwestern’s staff but generously agreed to talk with the Gamma Zeta News about his experiences serving the Black Hawks through these last four years which include two Stanley Cup Championships.

How did you get involved with the Blackhawks?

The Hawks had decided to make some changes about four years ago during the lockout year. They came to me and asked if I was interested which of course I was. There were a number of guys being considered but I interviewed with several people throughout the organization and ultimately was offered the job. I was at University of Chicago at the time and when I moved over to Northwestern, I was able to keep the role.

What are the responsibilities of the Head Team Physician?

I coordinate all of the medical care for the team and most of the front office personnel as well. Game day is probably the most interesting aspect of the job. I’ll arrive about two hours before the game and do an assessment of any of the guys who are listed as “maybe’s” for that night’s game and make the call as to whether they can play. During warm-ups, I’ll spend some time checking in on the guys who won’t be playing and assess their progress. I spend the games in the locker room or behind the bench and will treat players who are injured during the game. I’m the guy who “sews them up” and sends them back out there whenever possible.

What’s it like working with hockey players vs. some of the other elite athletes you’ve treated?

Of course each player is different but as a whole, hockey players are good guys, likeable and not ego heavy. There is incredible positive peer pressure among hockey players to get out there and play for the team. No one is playing games or holding back for individual reasons. They are incredibly team oriented. They are very good about doing the work needed to get back out on the ice.

I heard about one player who finished the season playing at top form with a torn labrum, a broken rib and 25 stitches….

These are tough guys. They can tolerate a lot. The Stanley Cup play is so intense and gets more aggressive with each round and each game. The players just accumulate injuries as it goes along. By the end, it seems like they are just duck taped together, they are so banged up. They are incredibly committed and have a wonderful positive attitude.

How do you get them to stay off the ice when they really need to?

It’s hard. They will fight you to play but over time, the players and the whole organization has come to trust my judgment.

Do you travel with the team?

Yes, either someone from my staff or I will be at all of the games. I was probably at 80% of the home games this year, 70% of the away games and all of the playoff games. Actually, the Blackhawks have taken a different approach to this than most of the other teams. It’s customary in the NHL for the home team doctors to treat both the home and away team players during the games. That practice creates some difficult situations. For example, if a player from each team is injured at the same time, the home team player will generally get treated first and be able to get out on the ice sooner. That can make a difference in the game. Also, there is absolutely no motivation for the home team doctor to clear a visiting team player to return to action if it’s questionable. It’s just a risk that the doctor won’t take for a visiting player. The Hawks bring their medical staff to all of their games. That has allowed the team to get guys on the ice faster during games and when on the road to treat injured players sooner allowing them to heal more quickly. The medical staff gets a better feel for each of the players and the players come to trust the staff. This has made a difference in the overall success of the team.

You must feel good about that… that you truly contributed to this year’s success.

Yes, I do. And the whole Blackhawk organization makes me, my staff and my whole family feel like an important part of the team. It is a great organization from top to bottom.

With all of this travel, it must be difficult for you to maintain your regular practice.

Yes, I am one of the busiest surgeons on the Northwestern staff. During the regular season though, it’s a predictable schedule and I’m able to plan my time and my surgeries. The playoffs are more difficult because the schedule changes based upon how we do and how our next opponent is doing. I do have patients who would watch the Hawks in the evening to see if I’d be able to hold a scheduled appointment or surgery with them the next day. I will say that in this town, Chicago, people are pretty tolerant of a doctor who has to reschedule a time because the Blackhawks won.

What were some of your favorite memories from this season?

I have two. The first was when we were down 3-1 to Detroit. I walked into the locker room and everyone was poised, composed and confident. I felt like I was walking into a winner’s locker room. I knew at that time that this was a special group from the players to the coaching staff to the front office. It was a group that just came together and all felt like they were part of the success.

The second was the end of Game 6 in Boston. That is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It’s one of those games that twenty years from now people will still be talking about.

What made this team special compared to all of the other successful teams that you have worked with?

They had the right people at every level of the organization, players, coaches and staff. The players had the basic skill, talent and teamwork that allowed them to be competitive. It was the trust that they all had in each other though that separated them to be great from the very good.

What was it like traveling back with the team after the win?

I traveled with the team back to Chicago on the team plane. We were all still drenched from the locker room celebration. The city did something very cool for our arrival at O’Hare. The police department and fire department surrounded the plane once we landed with vehicles with their lights all flashing. The CFD doused the plane with their fire hoses. It was very exciting. Rocky Wertz arranged for a celebration at Harry Carey’s out by the airport and had arranged limos for all of us that stayed with us from the airport until we were finally ready to go home.

The parade in Chicago was a lot of fun too. My family, including my three children Tom (6), Alison (8) and William (10) all got to ride in that too. They are huge fans.

Will you get to spend some time with the Stanley Cup?

I don’t know yet but I hope so. Last time I did. I was able to take it over to the children’s hospital and share it with some of the kids and staff. I even got to take it home and over to one of Menna’s taverns. If that happens this year I’ll get some pictures to share of some Gamma Zetas with the Stanley Cup. ATO Gamma Zeta has been a huge part of my life and has provided many great memories.

 

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