The Chicago Blackhawks Chairman W. Rockwell Wirtz announced today that President and CEO, John McDonough has been relieved of his duties. McDonough spent 13 years as a Sports Executive for the Chicago Blackhawks. The team announced that, Danny Wirtz, son of the club’s Chairman, will take over in an interim capacity.
Blackhawks Chairman W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz announced today the team has released John McDonough from his role as President and CEO of the organization.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 27, 2020
John McDonough fired by the Chicago Blackhawks
In 2018-19, the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season. This was the first time this had happened since McDonough joined the organisation in 2007. The Blackhawks were also outside of the playoffs this year, before the season was postponed, and were likely to miss out for a third consecutive year.
While the Blackhawks have enjoyed huge success over much of McDonough’s tenure, the team’s most influential stars are ageing, and the club is no longer able to challenge for a title. McDonough’s firing is the end of an era for the organisation.
McDonough has spent his entire career working in Chicago Sport. He began with the Chicago Sting, a soccer club, before moving on to baseball and the Chicago Cubs. He spent 24 years at Wrigley Field as Team President and was most fondly remembered for the importance he placed on fans. When he joined the Blackhawks in 2007, he brought his entrepreneurial talents with him.
McDonough put much emphasis on the Blackhawks being in the public sphere. He ensured all regular season games were televised and was paramount in the upsurge in Blackhawks’ season ticket sales. In McDonough’s second year, the Blackhawks season ticket holder numbers tripled.
McDonough was also instrumental in organising Chicago’s first Winter Classic in 2009. The game was played at Wrigley Field.The Blackhawks’ took on the rival Detroit Red Wings in that game. McDonough is credited with the success of the event, using his contacts within the Cubs’ organisation to make the showcase possible.
A change in direction
The firing represents a seismic shake-up for the Blackhawks organisation. McDonough was instrumental in creating a championship mentality in his hometown city. When he joined the team in 2007, the club had just picked up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in consecutive NHL drafts. The team had finished 28th and tied 25th out of 30, in the two seasons prior and the Blackhawks were an after-thought in the Chicago sport’s scene. But McDonough and the Blackhawks were about to embark upon one of the greatest eras in Chicago sports history.
The Blackhawks became an NHL dynasty, winning three Stanley Cups between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 seasons. Since McDonough came in, they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine consecutive seasons. They also lost in two Western Conference Finals and one to the eventual winners in 2013-14, the Los Angeles Kings.
Now that their most successful CEO has gone, the Blackhawks may be about to make further changes to their front office. While the on-ice suffering for the franchise hasn’t been long-standing, the need for a successful franchise in one of the NHL’s most lucrative destinations is not being taken for granted. With a young, unproven head coach, a GM under-pressure and an interim CEO, the Blackhawks turnover may not have finished. Time will tell.