The Bird is the Word! Blackbirds Win Breakthru Winter Hockey Invitational

Jan. 29, 2018


The Blackbirds glided into the United Center on Friday, the 19th of January a bit under the radar, with few picking them to win the Breakthru Winter Hockey Invitational, our annual charity tournament where associates raised money for underprivileged kids wanting to learn how to play hockey—more on that later.


The consensus at the UC was that the Star-Nosed Moles, the reigning champs, were a lock to win again. Then, in a decisive matchup between the top two teams on the second day of the tournament, the Blackbirds soared.


“Our first line got off to a fast start, igniting the entire team!” said Maggie Lapcewich, championship head coach.


The Blackbirds ripped off four quick goals, sending the star-studded Star-Nosed Moles into an inescapable hole. When the dust settled, the final score was 7-2, and the Blackbirds gained the ever-important advantage in the “goals against” category, which this year ended up determining the winner.




“In my four years coaching alongside my team captain Jimmy Wirtz, I honestly have to say this was the best and most enjoyable year yet,” Lapcewich said. “And by far the most competitive tournament to date—the competition was very strong.”


Like a seasoned captain, Wirtz spread the credit around to his fellow Blackbirds.


“It’s an honor to win the cup,” Wirtz said. “My teammates stepped up and knew we needed to play strong and take both games the second day to bring home the cup.”


Goaltender Shawn Gibson was named the Blackbirds MVP for stopping nearly every puck during the pivotal second day.


In total, five teams competed in this year’s Breakthru Winter Hockey Invitational: Blackbirds, Star-Nosed Moles, Sewer Rats, Aces and Grinders. We were honored to have players join us from a wide range of Breakthru markets, including Arizona, Canada, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New York (corporate office), South Carolina and Wisconsin.


Congratulations to all of this year’s players!



Head Coach: Maggie Lapcewich

Captain: Jimmy Wirtz

“I’m proud of how this team came together to defy the odds, always fighting hard and supporting each other through each and every game. I think we had a lot of fun as well!” – Coach Lapcewich


Star-Nosed Moles

Head Coach: David Lockie

Captain: Kevin Roberts

“The Star-Nosed Moles are back in familiar territory—we’re losers. This feeling is not foreign to the Star-Nosed Moles. We’ve lived most of our lives as the butt of all animal related jokes. To tell you the truth, it kind of feels good being a loser again. Having the year-long burden of being last year’s winner was terribly exhausting. Godspeed to the Blackbirds, see you next year, pretty people.” – Coach Lockie


Sewer Rats

Head Coach: Ed Callison

Captain: Frank Battaglia

“We played four solid games. Our final game featuring a three goal comeback win in the third period, which was the highlight. Frank Battaglia was our catalyst both on the ice and in the locker room. He is a true professional. Danny Wirtz was very solid in goal and seemed to get better with each game.” – Coach Callison

“I really liked the grit of our team, much like our namesake. I was honored to play with such a great group of friends, family and associates. The Invitational gains momentum each year and I know many of my fellow Rats are ready for next year!” – Danny Wirtz, Goalie



Head Coach: Jeff Roth

Captain: Will Fix

“I thought the Aces had the most fun. There was a lot of banter in the locker room. We had the best looking sweaters. Finally, we had three players who went to school Monday (Hunter Phippen, Will Phippen, and Angela Rende) bragging that they scored goals in the United Center. I am not sure which teams can claim that.” – Coach Roth



Head Coach: Julian Burzynski

Captain: Art Wirtz/Mark Switaj

“This was the best invitational to date. Getting everyone from two countries to come together to raise money for a great cause is a major accomplishment. I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this company. Congratulations to Maggie and the Blackbirds for a well-deserved victory.” – Coach Burzynski


The Next Generation of Hockey Players

As part of this year’s Breakthru Winter Hockey Invitational, players and associates raised money for First Stride, a charitable organization that helps kids in underserved communities learn how to play hockey at no cost.


We are thrilled to announce that our associates collected more than $50,000, and with this money, First Stride will be able to offer free skating and hockey lessons to approximately 300 kids over the next five years.


Thank you to all of our associates for helping kids in the Chicago community have to opportunity to play the sport that brings us all together. 

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