SBD/June 26, 2013/Franchises

Blackhawks' Front Office Viewed As Key To Success; Wirtz Credited With Turnaround

Wirtz has won two Stanley Cups since taking over the club in '07
In the aftermath of the Blackhawks' second Stanley Cup win in four seasons, it is "still amazing to think of how far the organization has come" since the death of Owner Bill Wirtz in '07, according to Barry Rozner of the Illinois DAILY HERALD. It is "worth remembering" that team Chair Rocky Wirtz "stayed away from the team the last few years of his father’s life because he didn’t want to be associated with how the team was being run." The "big change was Rocky taking over the team," putting President & CEO John McDonough "in charge and then letting the hockey people do what they had to do to become successful." McDonough yesterday said, "What we have now is a great organization, with so many great people. There's dozens and dozens of people who make this happen, but none of it works without Rocky. He hires people and he lets them work. I'm really proud to work for him and I'm proud of what the franchise has been able to do" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 6/26). In Chicago, John Kass writes, "Wirtz brought hockey back to the fans of Chicago." The Blackhawks in '04 were "widely considered to be the worst franchise in all of sports." Fans "didn't show, they didn't care," and the home games "weren't even on TV." So when Bill Wirtz died in '07, Rocky "built a new organization." Rocky Wirtz among Chicago sports team owners is the "only one who is truly loved by the fans." The others "don't even come close" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/26). Wirtz said that the Blackhawks "still lose money." But in Illinois, Mike Imrem writes, "A good guess is that these Stanley Cup victories are intoxicating enough that to add on the family will keep anteing up for as long as it takes to turn a profit." The goal "has to be to become those Bulls of hockey, the Yankees of winter, a historic NHL juggernaut like Montreal and Edmonton once were" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 6/26).

DREAMS OF A DYNASTY: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote, "With two Stanley Cups in four years, this is about as close to a dynasty as we’re going to see in the NHL these days." The potential for more is "on the horizon with this group." That is "good for Chicago, great for the NHL and the business of hockey and wonderful for anyone who has an appreciation for comeback stories and the rich history of the game" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 6/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote team GM Stan Bowman is "committed to the core," and "rebuilt the supporting cast after chopping half the Cup team in a salary-cap crunch in the summer of 2010." He "stuck with coach Joel Quenneville despite two first-round playoff losses, not to mention a nine-game losing streak last season that had the headhunters banging their drums." Cotsonika: "The best part? Bowman will not have to break up the team the way he did in 2010." He will have to "make changes, especially with the salary cap coming down next season." But he has "learned from experience and planned for this, and the Blackhawks will not need an overhaul" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/24). In Chicago, David Haugh writes, "Bowman never wavered, not even with his boss." He "stayed away from signing a big name to relieve public -- or private -- pressure and placed his faith in the core of a team coming off two straight first-round exits." Bowman's "conviction persuaded McDonough to stay the course." Sticking with a "plan instead of succumbing to public calls for change also fit into the way ... Rocky Wirtz likes to operate." Wirtz: "Like all the businesses our family runs, we don't let emotion guide your better judgment. So why would we do that for a sports team just because somebody writes about them every day" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/26).

HIT PARADE: In Chicago, Smith, Sege & St. Clair in a front-page piece note the Blackhawks yesterday were "trotting the Stanley Cup around the city in celebration." Using "social media, traditional news sources and the old-fashioned rumor mill, the Blackhawks faithful tracked the storied trophy from O'Hare International Airport to Michigan Avenue, with stops at a suburban restaurant, a South Side bar and the United Center in between" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/26).
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