Rocky Wirtz

Blackhawks fire team president McDonough in surprising move

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks fired team president John McDonough on Monday, cutting ties with a key figure in the most successful decade in team history and raising questions about the direction of one of the NHL’s marquee franchises.

The surprising move, coming with the season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, could have a domino effect on Chicago’s leadership structure. Stan Bowman has served as general manager for almost 11 years, but the Blackhawks haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 – a painful drought for a franchise that hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

The Blackhawks announced McDonough’s dismissal in a news release. Owner Rocky Wirtz pointed to the coronavirus crisis and the pause in play as an opportunity to assess the team’s direction.

”While we can reassure our fans there will be hockey again, no one knows what that will look like,” Wirtz said in the statement. ”What we do know is that it will take a new mindset to successfully transition the organization to win both on and off the ice.”

Danny Wirtz, Rocky’s 43-year-old son and a vice president with the team, is replacing McDonough on an interim basis.

”I take this interim role with the utmost responsibility to the team and will focus on resetting the framework for the next generation of the Chicago Blackhawks,” Danny Wirtz said in the release. ”I look forward to working with Rocky to identify our next leader.”

The 66-year-old McDonough is one of the most respected figures in sports business. He was president of baseball’s Chicago Cubs before he was hired by Rocky Wirtz in 2007 to take over the Blackhawks.

McDonough was a big factor in Chicago’s rise to the top tier of the NHL on and off the ice. The team has an active sellout streak of 531 games. The organization is well known for its fan experience and marketing abilities, one reason why it has been a regular participant in the NHL’s outdoor games.

”Thirteen years ago, I recruited John to the Blackhawks because of his leadership, direction and vision. John brought all of that to the table and more,” Rocky Wirtz said. ”His contributions went well beyond leading the team to three Stanley Cup championships. He rebuilt the front office and helped guide the organization toward a winning vision.

”As difficult as this is, we believe it was the right decision for the future of the organization and its fans.”

PHT Morning Skate: Subban crashes street hockey game

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

P.K. Subban was in Montreal’s Westmount neighborhood on Sunday when he came across eight-year-old Jack Fraser and his friends playing street hockey. The 26-year-old Habs’ defenseman decided to join in and test Fraser’s goaltending skills. (Bar Down)

Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville’s connection to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. (The Canadian Press)

With Glen Sather unsure of whether he will return for the 2015-16 season, Adam Proteau writes it’s time for the 71-year-old to step aside. (THN)

Bolts, beer and sun: How Lightning fans watch Stanley Cup Final, outside arena walls. (Puck Daddy)

Elliotte Friedman’s 30 thoughts are always a must-read. (Sportsnet)

A couple of Tampa tattoo artists made the ultimate bet prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Bar Down)

Thanks predominantly to Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks popularity in Chicago is at an all-time high. (Toronto Sun)

Video: Blackhawks reveal Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita statues

For newbie fans, the Chicago Blackhawks’ greatest duo might already be Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.* The truth is that those two players have a long way to go to eclipse the team’s legendary one-two punch of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.

Former owner Bill Wirtz rubbed the two former players the wrong way during his time as owner, but the team rebuilt their ties with the two aging faces of its franchise once Rocky Wirtz took over. The icons have been invited back for various events, but Saturday night featured a fitting moment: the team revealed statues for both of them in a classy ceremony.

Check out video of the announcement below.

* – Oddly, no one’s really making an argument for Eric Daze and Alexei Zhamnov.

Video: Chicago honors Chris Chelios; Chelios tries to bury the hatchet with Chicago fans booing him

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Earlier tonight we told you about how the Chicago Blackhawks would be honoring former Hawks defenseman and captain Chris Chelios. The Hawks brought out former Blackhawks luminaries like Denis Savard, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito, as well as Jeremy Roenick to pay homage to the Norris Trophy winning blue liner.

Complicating matters with honoring Chelios tonight was that the game was against the Detroit Red Wings. Chelios was famously traded to Detroit in a deadline day deal back in 1999. The Hawks dealt him thinking his career was just about over. Instead, Chelios played for nine more seasons in Detroit and creating his own legacy there, a legacy so strong that upon his retirement before the start of this season he got a front office job with the Red Wings.

How would Chelios’ reception go over at the sold out United Center? Awkward. Check the video out from tonight’s ceremony.

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All right so the “Detroit Sucks” chant was expected. Booing Chelios right as he’s about to start speaking, and even more so when he thanked former owner Bill Wirtz, was kind of expected but immensely foolish on the part of the fans that opted to do that. Chelios did his best to play goodwill ambassador.

Chelios addressed those who were booing him saying that he’s a proud Chicagoan like they are and that for the night they’re all on the same team. Savvy for Chelios to do that but a bit embarrassing for those fans just the same. We can understand fans being unhappy with Bill Wirtz as he did everything in his power to ruin the franchise. We can also understand some fans not enjoying seeing Chelios winning two Stanley Cups with the hated Red Wings, but as he said, “let bygones be bygones” and just appreciate the guy for what he did in the eight-and-a-half seasons in Chicago as a native of the city.