Gary Shopek as a Gophers hockey player.

University of Minnesota,

Former Gophers hockey iron man Shopek fighting late-stage cancer

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • March 25, 2014 - 6:00 PM

A former Minnesota Gophers hockey player is battling cancer, and many in the sport are rallying on his behalf.

Gary Shopek, 51, a forward in the mid- to late 1980s, is fighting late-stage esophageal cancer. A benefit dinner and auction for the longtime Twin Citian is scheduled for Saturday at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, 3820 Emerson Av. N., in Minneapolis.

After a standout high school career with Minneapolis Patrick Henry, Shopek walked on at Minnesota without a scholarship and skated for the Gophers for four years.

Considered the ultimate rink rat, he played in 173 games for Minnesota, sixth-most in school history.

His most productive season was 1986-87, when he wrapped up his college days with 12 goals and 31 assists in 46 games. The Gophers finished third in the nation that season for a second consecutive year.

After a brief pro career (though not in the NHL), Shopek continued to play. Even in his late 40s, he was playing at the competitive Senior A level. His 2009 Buck’s Furniture squad won the national championship that year.

A Caring Bridge web page maintained by his supporters says that Shopek has just a few months to live and that the cancer has spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

For more information on the benefit to raise money toward Shopek’s medical bills, visit or e-mail Mike Finke at


Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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